A Right Spirit and Clean Heart

Life_in_Tension_web“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me.”
(Ps. 51:10-11 ESV)

When we think of the word, holy (ἅγιος in Greek), we usually think of moral purity, which is one definition. The other primary definition is: “pertaining to being dedicated or consecrated to [set apart to] the service of God” (BDAG 61). This is also the word for saint.

The idea of holy as both separation and moral purity is fundamental in the Old Testament understanding of who God is. The Book of Genesis begins by saying: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” (Gen 1:1 ESV) In the act of creation God performs two acts of separation: non-being is separated from being and the heavens and the earth are created separate from one another. God then continues by creating other separations—darkness and light; morning and evening; dryland and water; male and female; and so on. And these separations were declared to be good.

Today, we often refer to separations as boundaries. Boundaries have the characteristics of being clear and concrete. Later in Exodus 20, when God gives Moses the Ten Commandments, the law provides boundaries defining who is and who is not a member of the household of God. Members follow God’s law; non-members break the law. These laws are not imposed; they are voluntary taking the form of a covenant between the people of Israel and God. The covenant language is obvious because the commandments begin with a reminder of the benefits of participating in the covenant: “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” (Exod. 20:2 ESV) In other words, you were slaves, now you are free—you owe me!

In the second giving of the covenant in Deuteronomy (second book of the law), the benefits are laid out in greater detail in the form of blessings [for following the law] and curses [for not following the law]. For example, we read:

“And if you faithfully obey the voice of the Lord your God, being careful to do all his commandments that I command you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth. And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, if you obey the voice of the Lord your God. Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shall you be in the field….” (Deut 28:1-3 ESV)

Further down we read the parallel antithesis:

“But if you will not obey the voice of the Lord your God or be careful to do all his commandments and his statutes that I command you today, then all these curses shall come upon you and overtake you. Cursed shall you be in the city, and cursed shall you be in the field…” (Deut. 28:15-16 ESV)

Psalm 1 builds on these blessings and curses:

“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers…” (Ps. 1:1 ESV)

The job description of a prophet in the Old Testament focused on reminding people of the consequences of ignoring their covenantal obligations.

Why then did Job, who was a righteous man under the law, suffer? (Job 1:1)

One answer is that existence of evil (Job 1:9). Another answer is the foolishness of men and women (Prov 1:7). The best answer is that we born in sin and require God’s intervention to obey the law. We read:

“For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another…” (Job 19:25-27 ESV)

The possibility of a redeemer is prophesied by Moses (Deut 18:15) and hinted at in God’s core values expressed immediately on giving the law in the form of forgiveness (Exod 34:7). But King David, in his prayer asking for forgiveness, most clearly sees God’s role in our moral condition when he writes:

“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me.” (Ps. 51:10-11 ESV)

David recognized that divine intervention was required for human compliance with the law.

God later intervened through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Cor 15:3-10). Consequently, our moral purity rests on the work of Christ.  In Christ and Christ alone, we are blessed to live within God’s law and able in true humility to worship God.

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Sawyer Explains Audiobook Production from Soup to Nuts

Making_Trackes_07202015J. Daniel Sawyer. 2012. Making Tracks: A Writer’s Guide to Audiobooks (And How to Produce Them).  Fairfax: AWP Books [1].

Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra

Audio fascinates me.

When I was a pre-teen, my favorite book was the Boy Engineer.  As a kid, I was always building things. In about the third grade I built my first telegraph. About that time, my parents gave me a crystal radio kit and I began listening to The Joy Boys, Ed Walker and Willard Scott, on WRC radio through my ear phones.  My fascination with the show went on for years and at one point my dad took me down to the studio to meet them [2]. Later in graduate school, I spent years of Saturday evenings listening to a Prairie Home Companion with Garrison Keillor [3].

Daniel Sawyer’s book, Making Tracks, taps into this same fascination.

Although I have never purchased an audiobook, most of the senior citizens that I know have. Commuters and road warriors are two other obvious listening groups. Successful authors are sensitive to the audiobook market because it opens up an entirely new reading market for their content [4]. They often end up becoming addicted to podcasting because much the same equipment is needed. Interestingly, the audiobook industry started out as a government program to produce audiotapes to aid the blind (xvii; 22).  Now, instead of tape, many books are entirely electronic (13).

Audiobooks require a bit of time and effort. Sawyer estimates that production of an audiobook requires 4 to 8 hours of work for each hour of finished audio, assuming that you know the ropes.  Reading at a rate of 8,000 to 9,500 words per hour, that means that an 80,000 word novel is somewhere between 33.6 to 80 hours of production work—recording and editing (3).

Beyond simple reading, an audio drama requires a cast of characters to produce, much like a movie. Think of the production including: a casting director, a Foley artist (sound effects person), a music director, director, production engineer, art director, and post production engineer (9-12). Details. Details. Details. My head was spinning as I read on… A recent book trailer, for example, shows this kind of workmanship [5].

Daniel Sawyer describes himself as “a longtime award-nominated audio/video producer and tech journalist-turned novelist” [6].  He writes in 6 parts divided into 18 chapters, including:

Part 1: The Business.

Part 2: Managing the Production.

Part 3: Acoustics.

Part 4: The Equipment.

Part 5: Production.

Part 6: Post Production (vii-xiii).

Sawyer’s discussion is detailed and engaging.

Under manage the production, Sawyer cites 5 points of vocal production:

  1. Posture
  2. Diction
  3. Breath control.
  4. Hygiene. And
  5. Inflection (48).

Remember all that good advice you got from your high school voice instructor?  Now is a good time to review those lessons.  Just like singing, the best way to read is standing up. Received pronunciation (BBC English) is a middle-class, Ohio accent. Sawyer suggests that speaking a mouth full of marbles is a good cure for “mush mouth” (49). Speak with conviction with good annunciation! (59) The list of helpful hints goes on and on.

Sawyer’s instructions on picking and using a microphone are priceless.  He suggests, for example, that book readers probably want a dynamic microphone which uses a small magnet vibrating back and forth inside a coil (102).  By contrast, a condenser microphone uses a charged piece of foil to pick up sound (101).  The dynamic microphone is more durable and sounds more personal than a condenser microphone.

Daniel Sawyer’s Making Tracks is a gold mine for audio book producers, but other audiophiles may want to pick up a copy. Microphones, cables, sound boards, and sound-editing software are all discussed in plain English.  Making Tracks is interesting reading.


[1] www.awpwriter.org.

[2] They were on the air from 1955 to 1972, but are still around:  www.thejoyboys.com.  What I did not know until I met them was that Ed Walker was blind.

[3] http://prairiehome.org.

[4] For example, take a look at:  www.TheCreativePenn.com or http://MichaelHyatt.com.

[5] http://www.jfpenn.com/book/desecration.

[6] http://JDSawyer.net.


Edward L. Throm.  1960.  The Boy Engineer:  A Popular Mechanics Book.  Illustrated by Evelyn Urbanowich and Robert Pious. New York:  Golden Press.

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Kinnaman Examines the Journey from Lost to Found, Part 3

LostMe_review_06302015David Kinnaman with Aly Hawkins. 2011. You Lost Me: Why Young Christians are Leaving Church and Rethinking Faith[1].  Grand Rapids: BakerBooks. (Goto part 1; goto part 2)

Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra

Perceptions matter.

In a world where everyone is potentially connected with everyone else, urban myths thrive. I remember in my career as an economist spending an enormous amount of effort working to verify perceptions with statistical research, in part, because elites actively manipulated perceptions to steer the public’s attention to their agendas. In economic circles, I referred to these perceptions as “sham debates” because elites were often shameless in distorting perceptions to deceive people. Consequently, I took a “trust but verify” attitude about the perceptions that I let shape my work [2].

In You Lost Me David Kinnaman sees mosaic (millennial) perceptions of the problems facing the church as falling into 6 categories:


1. Overprotective. Mosaics perceive the church as a “creativity killer where risk taking and being involved in culture are an anathema”. Kinnaman sees 4 risks of overprotection:  1. It leads mosaics to seek thrills elsewhere in life, 2. It makes it harder for mosaics to step into adult roles, 3. It leads to paralyzing self-doubt resulting in personal, professional, relational, and spiritual paralysis, and 4. It makes the church a weak place for creatives to hang out (99-101).


2. Shallow. “The most common perception of churches is that they are boring…Few young Christians can coherently connect their faith with their gifts, abilities, and passions.” (92) While the majority of Christian teens said that they understand the Bible pretty well, when specific questions are posed they performed poorly (117). Kinnaman sees the shallow faith problem as a consequence of a discipleship problem (120).


3. Anti-science. “Many young Christians have come to the conclusion that faith and science are incompatible…science seems accessible in a way that the church does not.” (92) More than half of teens talk about studying science, including medicine, health, engineering, research, and technology (139).


4. Repressive. “Religious rules—particularly sexual mores—feel stifling to the individualistic mindset of young adults.” (93) Kinnaman observes:  “Sexual sin is not worse than other sin but it does have profound consequences for relationships…sex is not about me…sex is about us.” (161)


5. Exclusive. “…they have been shaped by a culture that esteems open-mindedness, tolerance, and acceptance. Thus Christianity’s claims to exclusivity are a hard sell.” (93) Kinnaman observes in 1960 about 4/5  of the 18 to 20 year olds in the U.S. were white; now that number is about half; in 1960 about 9/10 were Christian; now that number is 62 percent; in 1960 about 5 percent of live births were to an unwed mother; now that number is 42 percent (171).  The point is that mosaics live in a social environment completely unknown to boomers when they were growing up.


6. “Young Christians (and former Christians too) say the church is not a place that allows them to express doubts.” (93) Kinnaman observes that “unexpressed doubt is one of the most powerful destroyers of faith.” (192)


Kinnaman’s comments about biblical illiteracy point to an important problem.  When I entered seminary in 2008, my entering class was tested for biblical competency and just 13 percent passed [3].  (The biblical competency test for my denomination was seriously easier to pass).  Mind you, the folks taking this exam were prospective pastors from evangelical congregations, not your typical youth group participant.  The Koran refers to Christians (and Jews) as the “people of the book”.  What does it mean to be among “people of the book” if you have never read “the book” and your pastor has only a passing knowledge of it?

Kinnaman’s comments about over-protection also struck a nerve with me.  As an economist working in finance, I learned that taking risks is the key to earning a high rate of return on your investments.  If you are overly cautious in investing, then your rate of return must necessarily be low.  In addition, if you are poorly schooled in identifying and gauging risks, then the risks that you take will likely not be rewarded and you may actually loose money.  During my own career when I was in my 20s, I took big risks and had a successful career in economics, in part, because I was comfortable being the first person to delve into new areas of study, including finance (my doctoral degree was in agricultural economics, not finance) [4].  Had I been more sheltered as a young person, I might not have been so self-reliant or prepared to succeed in my career.  The same critique could be applied to my faith journey because the path that I have taken has certainly not been the most obvious or pain-free.

In summarizing what he learned in studying mosaics, Kinnaman focused his recommendations into 3 points:


1. “The church needs to reconsider how we make disciples.”


2. “We need to rediscover Christian calling and vocation” both inside and outside the church.


3. “We need to reprioritize wisdom over information as we seek to know God” (201).


Kinnaman ends his book with 50 suggestions on what can be done to re-energize the church in this generation taken primarily from other authors.  His first suggestion—don’t overreact to what has been learned! (220)  Frankly, Kinnaman’s advice was better than most of the authors that he cited.

David Kinnaman’s You Lost Me is an important and interesting read.  The willingness of the Barna Group to interview and survey to explore problems empirically offer a breath of fresh air to the endless books based primarily on personal experience.  Parents, lay leaders, pastors, and seminarians will want to be aware of these issues.


[1] http://youlostmebook.com.

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trust,_but_verify.

[3] I was among the 13 percent that passed.  However, I taught adult bible study for about a decade before taking that exam.

[4] At my retirement party in 2010, a colleague made a surprising admission.  He stood up and in front of all my friends to say that he had spent his entire career following me into different lines of work.  I know from experience that he could not have made nearly so much money as I did and certainly did not have as much fun.

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Prayer Day 37: A Christian Guide to Spirituality by Stephen W. Hiemstra

Espera verano 2015
Espera verano 2015

Almighty God. We praise you for loving our families and caring for our children. Guard our hearts and minds. Chasten us to be faithful to our spouses. In the power of your Holy Spirit, keep us mindful of your will for our lives. In Jesus’ precious name, Amen.

Dios Todopoderoso, te alabamos por amar nuestras familias y por cuidar a nuestros niños. Guarda nuestros corazones y mentes. Disciplínanos a ser fieles a nuestros cónyuges. En el poder del Espíritu Santo, mantennos conscientes de Tu voluntad para nuestras vidas. En el precioso nombre de Jesús oramos. Amén.

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Be Holy For I am Holy

Life_in_Tension_web“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” (Matt. 5:8 ESV)

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

God is holy; we are not. Our tension with God often starts with guilt over this holiness gap. This gap, which is more of a chasm, points to our need for Christ because we cannot bridge it on our own [1]. The existence of this gap is explains why the gift of the Holy Spirit is foundational for our faith and for the establishment of the church. But first, let’s talk a bit more about the gap.

What does it mean to be pure in heart? The Greek word for pure, καθαρός, means “to being free from moral guilt, pure, free from sin” (BDAG 3814 (3c)). The Greek expression, pure in heart (καθαρὸς τῇ καρδίᾳ), is only here in the New Testament but arises in the Old Testament—

“Who shall ascend the hill of the LORD? And who shall stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully.” (Psalm 24:3-4 ESV)

—in the context of worship in the temple in Jerusalem. In view here is the holiness code of Leviticus where God admonishes us many times: “be holy, for I am holy” (Lev 11:44).

The emphasis on the heart in English translation is somewhat misleading because the response expected is not limited to emotions, which the English infers. The Hebrew expression for heart, לֵבָב, means “inner man, mind, will, heart” (BDB 4761). This is not wordsmithing trivia. Immediately following the Shema [2] we are commanded—”You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” (Deut 6:5 ESV)—which emphasizes this point (heart, soul, might) through repetition [3]. Jesus reminds us of this verse in Matthew 22:37 where he gives us the double-love command (love God; love neighbor; Matt 22:36-40)

The promise of seeing God, if we remain pure, is a promise of forgiveness (Ps. 51:10-11) and salvation (Job 19:27), but it is also a call to ministry. Seeing God figure prominently in the call stories of both Moses (Exod 3:6) and the Prophet Isaiah (Isa 6:5). Similarly, Paul is blinded by light in his call story which parallels the call account of the Prophet Ezekiel (Ezek 1:28) [4]. Seeing God blinds us and threatens our very existence, as unholy beings.

The promise of seeing God is also a promise of restoration of the relationship with God, as we first saw in the Garden of Eden (Gen 3:8-9), which is also a picture of heaven. For example, in the last chapter of the Book of Revelation, we read:

“No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads.” (Rev. 22:3-4 ESV)

In some sense, holiness is the mark of God on our souls, as well as our foreheads. This surprising idea is not a new idea; it is an old one. In Genesis we read:

“Now Abimelech had not approached her. So he said, Lord, will you kill an innocent people? Did he not himself say to me, She is my sister’? And she herself said, He is my brother. In the integrity of my heart and the innocence of my hands I have done this. Then God said to him in the dream, Yes, I know that you have done this in the integrity of your heart, and it was I who kept you from sinning against me. Therefore I did not let you touch her.” (Gen. 20:4-6 ESV).

What is most surprising here is that Abimelech is a gentile, not a Jew. Yet, God works in his heart to keep him from sinning and speaks to him directly.

It is indeed ironic in this beatitude to see Jesus, a “friend of … sinners” [5], placing a high value on and teaching about holiness knowing what was to come. John’s Gospel ends with Jesus offering the Apostles a commission—”As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you” (John 20:21 ESV)—and anointing them with the Holy Spirit—”Receive the Holy Spirit” (John 20:22 ESV). Clearly, purity of heart was a prerequisit for ministry and the Holy Spirit brought purity of heart within their reach. Still, the Apostles had to appreciate and desire the gift.


[1] The exclusiveness of Christ arises, in part, because he is both God and man which is a necessity for bridging both the holiness gap and the gap between mortal and immortal beings.

[2] ”Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.” (Deut. 6:4 ESV)

[3] The unity of heart and mind (or body, soul, and mind) implies that having a pure heart is a holistic statement of purity—purity throughout our entire person or being. Benner (1998, 22) notes that when the Bible refers to a division of the person, the division is for emphasis, not to infer that the person can be divided into separate and distinct parts.

[4] The Acts 26 allusion is the most complete: ἀνάστηθι καὶ στῆθι ἐπὶ τοὺς πόδας (arise and stand on your feet; Acts 26:16 BNT) which compares with Ezekiel’s words: στῆθι ἐπὶ τοὺς πόδας (stand on your feet; Ezek 2:1 BGT)

[5] “For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine, and you say, He has a demon. The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners! Yet wisdom is justified by all her children.” (Luke 7:33-35 ESV)


Bauer, Walter (BDAG). 2000. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. 3rd ed. ed. de Frederick W. Danker. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. <BibleWorks. v.9.>.

Benner, David G. 1998. Care of Souls: Revisioning Christian Nurture and Counsel. Grand Rapids: Baker Books.

Brown-Driver-Briggs-Gesenius (BDB). 1905. Hebrew-English Lexicon, unabridged.

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Kinnaman Examines the Journey from Lost to Found, Part 2

LostMe_review_06302015David Kinnaman with Aly Hawkins. 2011. You Lost Me: Why Young Christians are Leaving Church and Rethinking Faith [1].  Grand Rapids: BakerBooks. (Goto part 1; goto part 3)

Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra

Parents of mosaics (millennials) struggling with their Christian faith often beat themselves up over these struggles. I sure do. Behind these moments of self-indictment often begin with the catch phrase:  if only I had… Too often we observe our kids mimicking, not only our strengths, but also our weaknesses [2]. …Maybe especially our weaknesses…

As a parent of 3 mosaics, I wish that I had demonstrated use of scripture and prayer in daily problem solving (a discipling approach) instead of relying on general bible study and church participation (acculturation approach).  I implicitly assumed that the future would be more or less continuous with the past.  That is to say that my path to discipleship would also work for my kids.  I was so wrong…

In his book, You Lost Me, David Kinnaman cites Bob Buford who observed:

“I think this new generation is not just slightly different from the past.  I believe they are discontinuously different that anything we have seen before” (37).

Kinnaman observes that “it’s not that they’re not listening; it’s that they can’t understand what we are saying.” (39)

I remember as a new high school graduate with a bit of unexpected time on my hands the summer before starting college. So I announced to my parents that I would be biking to college (about 625 miles from Washington DC to Bloomington, Indiana). That was 1972—no bike helmet, no companion, no cell phone, no credit card.  My parents never doubted my ability—I was an Eagle Scout—and they raised no objections. I did the trip.  I was 18 years old. Today, the evening news reports when parents “free range” their pre-teen down the park in their neighborhood. How exactly can we communicate with our kids about taking risks if they have never had opportunity to take any?

Kinnaman sees mosaics living in a new technological, social, and spiritual reality summed up in 3 words: access, alienation, and authority (39).  Let me dig into this a bit.

Access. My kids grew up Googling information; I grew up making trips to the library and cruising the card catalog. Gigabits of information is available where we had almost none.

For example, when I left as a foreign exchange student for Germany in 1978, I could not find a map of Germany (even in the library) with enough detail to find the town, Göttingen, where I would be studying. Today, not only can you Google directions to Göttingen University, but you can pull up a satellite map and take a virtual walk around campus [3].

Kinnaman writes that this increase in access to information makes everyone a potential expert (of sorts) with an expectation of respect. Kids have become dismissive of hierarchy, are aware of global events, and expect both to participate in events and be informed in real time (43). Information is power. They have it; they use it.

Alienation.  Think of “alienation as very high levels of isolation from family, community, and institutions” (44). Mosaics are much less likely than boomers to have known both their parents (8 times as likely), to have attended church, or to have completed the 5 key developmental tasks of being an adult (leaving home, finishing school, becoming financial independent, getting married, and having a child; 45-47).

As a boomer, I was extremely late in marrying—age 30—because of my doctoral studies. Most of my peers had been married one or more times and had kids by that point.  Among mosaics, Kinnaman reports that only 46 percent of the women and 31 percent of the men are married by age 30 (47).

If your church is primarily made up of married couples with children, then mosaics must feel really out of place when they visit.  This implies that they are unlikely to have many older mentors in their lives to help them navigate uncharted waters.  This is not a trivial observation.  Most of the gun men from recent shooting incidents (and volunteers for ISIS) could be loosely described as alienated mosaics out of work. How would life today be different if these young men had mentors and churches really looking out for them?

Authority.  Kinnman observes that Christianity is no longer the default setting of American society.  Citing John Westerhoff’s book, Will Our Children Have Faith?, Kinnaman see 6 different arenas of culture—community, church, religious programming, public schools, popular entertainment, and stable family structure—that all used to embody Christian values, which no longer do so in whole or in part (51). Kinnaman observes, for example, that among mosaics Paris Hilton is more favorably viewed than Billy Graham (53).  They are also much less likely than previous generations to believe that the Bible has a claim on their obedience (52).

David Kinnaman’s book, You Lost Me, paints a very challenging picture of the church’s relationship with mosaics based primarily on changes in the environment in which they find themselves. Their attitudes and beliefs may still be faithful to the tradition in which they were raised but they find themselves struggling with making their own way through the cultural transitions going on.  You Lost Me is a book that parents (as well as pastors and lay leaders) might find helpful reading.

In part 3 of this review, I will turn my attention to Kinnaman’s comments about the church.


Westerhoff, John. 2012.  Will Our Children Have Faith? New York: Morehouse Publishing.


[1] http://youlostmebook.com.

[2] We know from scripture that such dark thoughts are not of God.  The Prophet Jeremiah, for example, prophesies a time:  “In those days they shall no longer say: The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge. But everyone shall die for his own iniquity. Each man who eats sour grapes, his teeth shall be set on edge.” (Jer. 31:29-30 ESV) The gloss on this passage is under the new covenant in Christ each of us is responsible for our own sins. We are not off the hook for bad parenting, but we are also not responsible for the peculiar sins of our children.

[3] http://www.uni-goettingen.de.

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Kinnaman Examines the Journey from Lost to Found, Part 1

LostMe_review_06302015David Kinnaman with Aly Hawkins. 2011. You Lost Me: Why Young Christians are Leaving Church and Rethinking Faith [1].  Grand Rapids: BakerBooks. (Goto part 2; goto part 3)

Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra

I dropped out of church when I went to college.

I was neither angry at God nor questioning his existence—problems closer to home dominated my life:

  • I felt lost when our church youth group vanished overnight after the youth director was sacked;
  • I felt lost when I failed my college audition for music school;
  • I felt lost when the Vietnam draft loomed over me and I had trouble explaining to my parents why fighting in an unethical war was wrong; and
  • I felt lost in my singleness at a time when most of my peers were getting married.

In my junior year, my lostness gave way when I roomed with a persistent navigator [2] who helped me re-engage with the church. This is when I realized that my relationship with God was separate from my relationship with the church. This realization helped me reconnect with God and begin to share my other feelings of lostness with friends in Christ.

In his book, You Lost Me, David Kinnaman describes today’s drop out problem as a “faith development” or “disciple-making” problem (21). Kinnaman classifies drop outs into 3 broad categories:

  1. “Nomads [who] walk away from church involvement but still consider themselves Christians.”
  2.  “Prodigals [who] lose their faith, describing themselves as ‘no longer Christian’”.
  3. “Exiles [who] are still invested in their Christian faith but feel stuck (or lost) between culture and the church” (25).

This drop out problem is critical because the drop outs make most of their important decisions at a period in life (ages 20 to 30) when they have disengaged from their spiritual life in the church. Ironically, teenagers are some of the most religiously active Americans while 20-somethings are the least religiously active Americans (22).

Following George Barna, Kinnaman prefers the term, mosaic, and not the term, millennials, to describe this 20-something generation because of the eclectic (and often contradictory) nature of the relationships and the values that they pursue (29). In this context, the catchphrase, “every story matters”, is helpful because generalizations about mosaics are misleading (25).  Thus, Kinnaman is constantly highlighting the diversity among nomads, prodigals, and exiles even when he writes about these particular categories.  This diversity often takes the form of stories and counter-stories.

Kinnaman sees 3 important areas where the church needs to fill gaps in disciple-making among mosaics [3]:

  1. Relationships. Mosaics are both “extraordinarily relational and, at the same time, remarkably self-centered” (29).  It is hard to get to “we” when it’s all about me.
  2. Vocation. Mosaics receive “little guidance from their church communities for how to connect these vocation dreams deeply with their faith in Christ”. Special problems arise with creatives (artists, musicians, filmmakers, etc) and scientists (29-30, 80-83).
  3. Wisdom. Mosaics are inundated with information, but often lack the wisdom to filter through it (30-31).

Kinnaman sees the need to think of discipleship in terms of apprenticeship relationships where the uniqueness of the individual is both known and cherished (35).

David Kinnaman is the president and majority owner of the Barna Group [4], a private resource group in Ventura, California, which specializes in interviews and surveys on matters of faith.  He is well-known as the co-author of unChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks About Christianity.  You Lost Me is written in 12 chapters divided into 3 parts:

Part 1:  Drop Outs

  1. Faith, Interrupted,
  2. Access, Alienation, Authority,
  3. Nomada and Prodigals,
  4. Exiles,

Part 2: Disconnection

  1. Overprotective,
  2. Shallow,
  3. Anti-science,
  4. Repressive,
  5. Exclusive,
  6. Doubtless,

Part 3: Reconnection

  1. What’s Old is New
  2. Fifty Ideas to Find a Generation (7).

The focus in part 1 is on mosaics, in part 2 on the church, and in part 3 on how to respond to what has been learned.

David Kinnaman’s You Lost Me is a well-written marketing study complete with statistical results, analysis, and recommendations. Kinnaman’s research is thorough and he displays a deep understanding of the literature on dealing with generational shifts in the church.  My first response on finishing this book was to order his other book, UnChristian.  Pastors and lay leaders need to be aware of this research.

Here in part 1 of this review, I have given an overview of Kinnaman’s book.  In part 2, I will look in more depth at his discussion of mosaics and the 3 classes of drop outs.  In part 3, I will explore his discussion of the challenges facing the church.

[1] http://youlostmebook.com.

[2] http://www.navigators.org.

[3]George Barna prefers the term, mosaic, to millennial because of the eclectic nature of relationships in this generation (29).



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Day 36: A Christian Guide to Spirituality by Stephen W. Hiemstra

Espera verano 2015
Espera verano 2015

Compassionate Father, beloved Son, ever-present Spirit. Thank you for giving us healthy boundaries in your law. Cleanse our hearts of jealousy, envy, and other evil passions that lead us to sin. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Padre Compasivo, Hijo Amado, Omnipresente Espíritu, gracias por darnos límites saludables en Tu ley. Limpia nuestros corazones de los celos, la envidia, y otras pasiones malvadas que nos llevan a pecar. En el nombre de Jesús oramos. Amén.

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Jesus Models Image Ethics

Life_in_Tension_web“So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord,
but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does,
that the Son does likewise.” (John 5:19 ESV)

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Jesus loves image ethics.

Because we are created in the image of God, God is our model for ethical behavior. In Genesis we read:

“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (Gen. 1:27 ESV)

The pattern is simple—God does A, we do A; God does B, we do B. Jesus applies this pattern in the Lord’s Prayer several times. For example, we read:

“Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matt. 6:10 ESV)

The phrase “on earth as it is in heaven” models this pattern. Also, we see:  “and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” (Matt. 6:12 ESV)

Here Jesus gets stuck and repeats himself, in case one is hard of hearing:

“For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matt. 6:14-15 ESV)

In six simple verses (Matt. 6:10-15), Jesus repeats this pattern four times! Does a harden heart preclude one from salvation from sin? These verses certainly hold up that possibility.

An obvious application is to reflect all of God character traits:

“…The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness…” (Exod. 34:6 ESV)

If God is merciful, then we are merciful; if God is gracious, we are gracious…Notice how the fifth beatitude reverses this pattern:

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.” (Matt. 5:7 ESV)

The inclusion of the fifth beatitude of mercy to the exclusion of God’s other character traits establishes mercy as God’s priority. Breaking the pattern through reversal also adds emphasis.

Do you want a blessing? Then, be a blessing! [1]

Simple. Clean. Convicting.

Jesus loves image ethics.


[1] One is reminded here of Abraham’s blessing: “And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.” (Gen. 12:2 ESV)

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Noll Tells the History of Protestants in America Briefly

Noll_review_06272015Mark A. Noll.  2002.  The Work We Have to Do:  A History of Protestants in America.  New York:  Oxford University Press.

Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra

We live stories.

When I worked as a chaplain intern, I discovered that I had a special connection with the drunks that came in and were strapped in gurneys to dry out. From their gurneys they would rage—often in Spanish—and many of the interns were intimidated. I talked with them; cried with them; and defended them in group. My affinity with these men was a mystery—I had never been drunk and strapped in a gurney.  Much later, I realized that although the gurney treatment was not a personal experience, my emotions had long been bounded and gagged—too dangerous to be expressed the omnipresent, polite company—for most of my life.  My affinity with the plight of the gurney men was a metaphorical story, not a life experience story.

We live stories. Stories give life meaning. This is why history is so important.  We find meaning in the stories that we tell and those that we cannot express.

Mark Noll starts The Work We Have to Do with the story of David Brainard.  Brainard, a young man infected with tuberculosis, got into trouble:

“In 1742 he was expelled from Yale College when he claimed that one of his teachers did not have any more of God’s grace than a wooden chair” (ix).

Expelled from college for a private conversation, Brainard could not be ordained so he embarked on a career as a missionary to the Indians in New York, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. A man of great passion, Brainard died at the age of 29.  In the end, he was a friend of Jonathan Edwards and was at the time of his death engaged to marry Edwards’ daughter, Jeusha (ix-x).  Edwards, of course, went on to inspire a revival known as the Great Awakening; it was Brainard who inspired Edwards.  Brainard also inspired the founding of Princeton University and, in the nineteenth century, a generation of missionaries.

Noll’s title, “the work we have to do”, is taken from Edwards’ eulogy over David Brainard (14). Noll focuses on providing a short overview of the role of protestants in American history. He writes:

“Even if Protestant beliefs and practices have often worked at odds with each other, there can be no mistaking the importance of Protestant religion for the national history. Although a short book on a big subject can hit only high points it is able to suggest some of the depth, drama, dynamism, and diversity in this story.” (xi)

Noll writes in 7 chapters, preceded by a preface and followed by an appendix, chronology, reading list, and index. These chapters are:

  1. Who are the Protestants?
  2. Where do Protestants Come From?
  3. Protestants in Colonial American, 1607-1789.
  4. Protestants in Charge, 1790-1865.
  5. Times of Trial and Renewal, 1866-1918.
  6. Protestants in Modern America.

Noll was (1979-2006)  professor of history at Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois, a school famous for its one-time student, Billy Graham.  He is now the Francis A. McAnaney Professor of History at Notre Dame University [1].

One of the histories which I was not familiar with was the story of Methodist Francis Asbury.  Noll writes:

“In 1771 Wesley asked for volunteers to go to America, and Asbury responded eagerly [at age 13].  Before he died, Asbury traveled nearly 3000,000 miles, mostly on horseback, into all the former thirteen colonies and the new states of Tennessee and Kentucky” .

Asbury himself wrote about his daily schedule as:

“My present mode of conduct is…to read about 100 pages a day; to preach in the open air every other day; and to lecture in prayer meeting every evening.”

Noll notes:

“When he arrived in America there were 4 Methodist ministers looking after about 300 laypeople.  By the time of his death in 1816, there were 2,000 ministers and more than 200,000 members of Methodist congregations.”

How many pastors today can make a claim like that? (52-53)

Noll is in a clear position to opine about what it means to be protestant today.  He writes:

“In some sense Protestantism in America began with Puritans battling with the English state church over questions of innovation, experimental spirituality, and adaptation of worship to the people.” (116)

Does that sound familiar?  Noll sees the strengths of Protestantism as:

“[There are] twin, but often competing strengths of Protestantism.  There strengths are a connection with the historic Christian faith and a drive to express that faith in an up-to-date, contemporary manner.” (116-117)

Do you feel the tension in this statement? Sounds like the theme for a new book![2]

Mark Noll’s The Work We Have to Do is a good summer read.  Clearly, he is writing for an introductory college course in church history, but his accessible style makes it a book that just about anyone can enjoy.


[1] http://history.nd.edu/faculty/directory/mark-a-noll/

[2] Bothersome Gaps:  Life in Tension (http://wp.me/p3Xeut-OT).

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