Dangers of a Culture of “Like”

Screenshot 2018-02-16 at 3.22.53 PM“Like”

We all “Like” it. Each of us derive a level of pleasure whenever someone “Like”s our photo, quote, or entry. In fact, I would like it very much if you “Like”d this post.

The culture of “Like”ing things that we agree with has resulted in several dangerous realities:

  • We end up reading only those articles and ideas that already agree with what we believe
  • The computer algorithms that regulate what shows up on our feed weed out those posts we disagree with, and only shows us those things that we already agree with
  • The end result is we end up only seeing things we already agree with

The result is frightening.

Our growth as a culture and a people of ideas is stunted. It prevents us from having to wrestle with ideas, concepts, beliefs that are different than our own. But that is precisely how we grow and mature.

As a result, our society loses her ability to dialogue and discuss important issues. All we know how to do is to attack and disparage those we disagree with.

But the thing about pretty much any issue that’s important – gender roles, gun control, sexual identity, the war against terrorism, mental illness, the homeless, etc. – is that important issues have multiple perspectives and opinions. It is only by listening to and learning from differing views that we grow and gain a greater understanding. Thus, by living in a world where everyone already agrees with us, we have lost the ability to dialogue, learn, and grow.

So, I propose that we intentionally read ideas from news sites and web pages that we disagree with. Seek those out.

I propose that we engage in thoughtful, respectful conversations with people we disagree with…in person…over coffee…over beer…over a meal. Don’t do it on Facebook. Don’t do it by email. Don’t do it by texting. Have a real conversation, face to face.

You in?

If so, go ahead and click on that “Like” button!

Preachers and Sermons – Why Expository Preaching

Screenshot 2018-02-15 at 9.10.07 PM

I take the holy privilege and responsibility of preaching God’s word very seriously. On any given week, I spend about 15 hours studying and praying before a single word is put down on paper for the sermon…well, actually before a single letter is typed on my laptop, but that doesn’t sound as nice as “a single word on paper”.

The main thing I am asking during my study and prayer is, “God what do you want to say to our congregation?”

Our sermons at the Little Church and Lakewood Grace are planned out at least 6 months to a year in advance. And our sermons are almost always based on the books of the Bible. We go through different books of the Bible. We practice expository preaching.

Both pastor Brad and I take several weeks every year to get away by ourselves to be alone with God with two simple questions:

  • “What do you want proclaimed to the congregations at the Little Church and Lakewood Grace?”
  • “What does our congregation needs to hear from you?”

We take this business of listening to God very seriously. It’s uncanny how in so many instances, the sermons that God has us preaching, sermons that were planned months in advance, are exactly the sermons we needed to hear for all that was happening for that particular week.

The only explanation I have for this is – God. God did it. God did it again. God knew what we would need from him.

There are well-meaning people who may say something like this about our sermons.

  • It’s too long – the most common one
  • It’s too Bible based. I still don’t get that one
  • We want more thematic or topical sermons – I can see that
  • This is supposed to be a sermon, not a Bible study

Whenever I hear comments like this, as I am working on the sermon, I find myself wanting to please the people who make such comments. (If truth be told, all pastors want to please their congregation members). But this is an impossible task. What pleases one, will not please others.

But the biggest problem is that when I start down this rabbit trail, my focus is completely off. My job as a preacher is to ask, “What does God want me to proclaim? What does God want to say to the congregation?” And my job is to pray and study until that is clear.

When I start focusing on what Mr. _____ wants and what Ms. _____, I am focused on the wrong person.

Yes, the sermon has to relate to our lives. Both Brad and I try very hard to make it so.

The reason why we preach out of the books of the Bible is because, when I am preaching topical sermons, I already have an idea of what I want to preach and then look for the texts that support that. But this is me. I start with what I want to preach and then I find the Bible verses that support what I want to preach. And I don’t trust myself with that much power. And I think this is dangerous.

But when we are going through the books of the Bible, the preacher must honestly stand under the authority of God’s word and must prayerfully study and ask what God wants preached out of God’s word.

Maybe other preachers aren’t as selfish and struggle with sin and pride as this guy. But since I am a prideful and I am a sinner, for my sake and for our sake, I would rather stick with asking “God, what do you want to preach and say to the congregation this week?”

Garbage Cans and Guns

Screenshot 2018-02-15 at 1.10.48 PMI live in a community where garbage cans are only allowed on the streets on the day of pick up. Rest of the time they are either to be stored in your garage or on the side of the house behind the fence so that it is not visible from the street.

That’s the HOA rules. If you violate it, you receive a nice note. If you violate it again…well…I’m not sure. I guess you get a not such nice note.

While it’s kind of a pain that, even in my own home, I don’t have the right to do with my garbage can what I wish, for the most part I am okay with it because it makes our whole neighborhood look better.

In order to protect the well being of the majority, each of us give up some personal rights. This is how societies and communities work.

  • We already do this every time we go to the airport and submit to the rules and regulations of TSA.
  • Every time we drive on the road, we are not free to drive anyway at any speed we want. We already submit to the rules of the road for the safety of us all.
  • We are not free to post whatever content or photos online. We have decency laws that prohibit the distribution of certain kinds of materials for the well being of all.
  • Goodness sake, I can’t even leave my garbage can any way and any where I want on my own property because of HOA rules!

The curbing of personal rights in some areas ensures the well being of us all. This is how all societies work. There are mutual agreements on which personal rights we protect and honor and which ones we will submit to the well-being of us all. That’s the only way societies work.

Now what does this have to do with guns?

I like guns. I like shooting guns. I appreciate that I live in a country where I am free to own guns. I would currently own a gun if I did not have a 12 year-old boy in the house. When my boy is out of the house, I will purchase a gun.

While I like guns, I am willing to forego my right to purchase and own semi-automatic, military grade weapons like the AR-15 (the civilian version of the M-16) if in return it makes it really difficult for people to gain access to such weapons. It’s about access. We have to limit access to weapons like the AR-15. We have to get semi-automatic weapons off the streets.

I know. Some of you are saying, the gangs will have these guns no matter what. You are right. The criminal element will always have access to weapons.

But they aren’t the ones going into our schools shooting up kids and teachers. It’s kids doing that. And the problem is that it is way too easy for people to get access to these weapons. We have to limit access to these weapons. We have to make it really, really hard to gain access to these guns.

I want to do my part so that we never use the words “Another Mass School Shooting” ever again. And if we can limit access to these weapons, I am willing to sacrifice my right to own such guns.

We owe it to our kids, our teachers, ourselves, our society.