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Mourn with those who mourn

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The worst mass shooting in our country’s history has occurred. A community has been devastated. Worse, a group of people already marginalized in much of our society now likely fear for their safety even in public places. My heart hurts for what the victims and their families are going through. This is a time to mourn with our neighbors in the LGBT community.

I fear what might come of this tragedy. Though we, as a society, do pull together in some ways after tragedies like this, many of us also react in ways that broaden the lines in the sand and cause further separation and animosity. The main point of this blog is to ask you, whomever you are, to join me in fighting this. I especially beg the Christian Church to seek to be lead servants in this.

The thing is, the largest mass shooting in U.S. history was perpetrated by a man with deeply held religious beliefs, and he targeted the LGBT community. This was already a socially flammable situation, and it has now been greeted with a stick of dynamite. There are two main ways we hit a foul ball in responding to this situation on social media.

First, I see a lot of us treating the situation almost satirically. Friend, there are times and places for satire and humor. This is not one of those times. A certain political candidate completely glossed over the devastation and feigned gratitude for being “proven right.” Many are rolling out satirical posts about a single Muslim not representing all Muslims, yet he somehow represents all gun owners. Some posts aren’t satirical, but they still gloss over the pain of the victims and the community at large. Let’s please have our first response be, “I’m so sorry for your loss. I love you. What can I do to help?” Let’s not let it be, “See, I was right.” These are real people. They are not issues. They deserve more than that because they’re fellow bearers of God’s image.

Second, I see a lot of us demonizing entire groups of people. It's an ignorant and bigoted response if you assume all Muslims should be suspected terrorists. It's ignorant and bigoted to say all who are religious hate the LGBT community or wish them harm. It's ignorant and bigoted to say that everyone in favor of owning firearms wishes harm to society. It's ignorant and bigoted to say the victims "got what's coming to them" as if you were really any different than them in the first place. It’s ignorant and bigoted to chalk this tragedy up to liberals and gun-free zones. 

Mourn the tragedy. Pray for those affected. Call out the hate in this person for what it is. But please don't perpetuate his bigotry by spreading unfounded discriminations of your own against those you disagree with. 

Look, I get that we sincerely and viscerally disagree on very important topics. It’s OK to feel anger at others and get heated over things. But it’s not OK to delude yourself into thinking you’re actually all that different from them. It’s not OK to condemn them. We can disagree and still have humanity in common. We can disagree and still serve one another.

To the LGBT community, I'm a devout Christian, I sincerely love you, and my heart goes out to you. You and I are no different. We're fellow humans with ultimately the same desires and same needs. I'm so sorry this was done to you.

Posted by Matt Norman with

How to not feel like a rookie on Easter

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Spandex, Foam Rollers and Top 40 music have more to do with Easter than you think. For years I worked as a personal trainer in various gyms and always knew that the first week of the year was our Super Bowl. In fact, there’s the potential for a gym to make enough money in the first six weeks of the year to pay for almost all of the overhead the remaining 11 months. Most of what the gym makes after Valentine's day is profit. Crazy.

People coming through the door in those timid weeks all looked pretty much the same - a bit lost, insecure, hesitant, regretful yet hopeful, and trying very hard to not look like a rookie. Swearing to make “this year different”, they’d use Jan. 1 as a rally point to see their life changed. For weeks they’d give it their best and the place would be packed, but by Valentine’s Day, it’s the same old gym rats left standing.

I feel like New Year’s is to gym attendance as Easter is to church attendance. People come a bit lost, insecure, hesitant, hopeful, and wondering if anyone can tell that they are new.

Most people I meet as a pastor that attend an Easter service after a long lapsed period are trying to - like at the gym - see their life changed. Easter is a rally point for many. If this is you, I have some pointers to make it easier for you to not feel so much like a rookie and be able to relax and feel at home in any church.

  1. Like at the gym, most people have no idea that you are new. Obviously if you are in a smaller church or church plant, that might be different, but most churches over 120 people or so won’t detect your attendance record. Just walk in like you own the place.
  2. Like a gym, there is really no need to dress up. Unspoken dress codes vary between church traditions, but most today won’t look like the churches you grew up in as a child. If you aimed at what you’d wear to work or date night, you’d be erring on overdressing, not under-dressing.
  3. Like at a gym, the main thing is still the main thing even if stuff looks different. You may notice new “stuff”, like better projectors and church apps. Graphics and technology may be different than you remember, but Jesus is still the King, His good news is still our fascination, and connecting is still our desire.
  4. Like a gym, after the first visit you can expect follow-up contact. Most churches will probably ask you to fill out a connect card of some kind. This isn’t to troll you but to serve you. If you don’t want to - don’t. If you do, you’ll likely get contacted by someone nervously trying to help.
  5. Like at a gym, a good percentage of the people around you on will be just like you, non-average or new attenders wondering if people can see that they are too a rookie. You fit in much more than you actually know. They probably tried on different outfits that morning and have butterflies and awkwardness as much as you do.
  6. The service will likely be shorter than normal. As a pastor I can tell you most pastors aim the service to go about 50-60% as long as normal. This is to make space for your family time. This is a way for churches to be hospitable and recognize your time constraints.

 

Unlike a gym, you won’t have to wipe the equipment after you use it, or hear men grunting and throwing things. Ke$ha will not be the music choice, and you really shouldn’t wear spandex - even if you’re feelin it.

Attending a new church is intimidating enough, but attending one when it’s been since Christmas or last Easter is something different entirely. I know I speak for other pastors when I say, we look forward to seeing you and hope you feel welcome.

Posted by Luke Thomas with

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