Finding Family

One of the good things about being part of a local church is you will find a new extended family; you will find brothers and sisters, uncles and aunts, and grandparents who will add a lot of love to you and your family. I’ve talked about how important these people who became like family are to me (even though they’re not blood relatives).

But finding this family can be a little daunting. Say you’re a young couple who’s just moved to a new city and found a church you like. What’s next?

Find a family; that’s what’s next. Now, like I said, this can be a little uncomfortable, but let me give you some things to think about:

1. Most senior adults would relish having a young couple to hang out with. Most would respond very eagerly to an invitation to lunch, dinner, or just a cup of coffee.

2. Most senior adults mistakenly think they have nothing to offer to the younger generations. A lot of the time, senior adults don’t understand the digital world—and really don’t want to. They don’t think you would be interested in anything they have to say.

3. Don’t expect them to make the first move. You make it. Find a couple you think you might have something in common with—perhaps you grew up in the same town, went to the same college, work in the same career, or like to play golf. Any reason is a good reason to start the conversation.

Then, start the conversation. Ask them (or him or her) to lunch after church. Ask about their lives. Introduce them to your children. Tell your stories and listen to theirs. They’ll bring incredible wisdom to your life if you’re wise enough to hear it.

Find out their birthdays and anniversaries and celebrate them. You know, act like family.

The rewards will be more than you can ever imagine. You’ll get back more than you’ll ever give.

And all it will cost you is a cup of coffee.

It’s All Foreplay

It’s All Foreplay

Gary Smalley, the marriage expert and author, says that when it comes to sex, men are like microwave ovens and women are like crockpots. Just push a few buttons, he said, and men are ready to go. Women, on the other hand, take a long time to warm up.

This has left most husbands in a frustrating dilemma. We really don’t know what to do. As a result, too many of us guys have been taken in by the stacks and stacks of magazines with articles promising fantastic sex if we only do this or that. These things never work because they’re not written by our wives. Our wives are unique, and there’s no sexual template that works the same for everybody.

So, as a marriage veteran for over 35 years and a man who’s crazy in love with his wife, here’s the little secret I’ve discovered.

It’s all foreplay.

Our wives are incredible women who have a lot going on in their lives. The stuff going on in her life doesn’t stop simply because she’s walked into the bedroom. If she works outside of the home, she’s still thinking about the meetings and projects or her job. If she’s a mother, she’s thinking about the kids. If there’s anything else going on, she’s thinking about that too.

And yeah, dude, she’s thinking about you…somewhere in all of that. Now, if you demand attention or if you pout because you’re not getting your way, you become just one more person who needs something from her. On some days, she can’t tell the difference between her whining toddler grabbing at her and you.

How do we change this?

We start by changing our thinking. We begin by understanding that every part of the day is connected to our expressions of intimacy.

Here’s what I mean by that. You can’t talk to her one way in the kitchen and another way in the bedroom. She can’t (and shouldn’t) separate the two. So, if you want her to respond to you in the bedroom, you have to respond to her in the kitchen. That means taking the garbage out before you go to bed is sexy. That means paying the bills and taking care of the finances is sexy. That means helping put the kids down at night is sexy. That means holding her hand while you watch the kids at soccer practice is sexy.

For one thing, you don’t ever want her to forget that first and foremost, she’s your wife. More than being a wage earner, a good mother to the kids, housekeeper, etc., she is still most of all your wife.

And second, you want your wife’s mind and heart free from all distractions so she can fully concentrate…

…on you! Her husband!

Don’t you remember? There was a time when it was enough for the two of you just to be together. There was a time when you couldn’t get enough of each other. Remember? We all felt that way once, before life happened to us.

As husbands, we want to recreate that moment for our wives. No, we can’t hold that moment forever. Life is calling. But we can hold on to it for a few minutes. And that’s foreplay. Foreplay is creating the space where she’s free to respond to you as her husband.

Making things. It’s what guys do. So, make this: a space where her heart and mind has nothing to think about but you.

Like I said, it’s all foreplay.

A Little Honesty About the Pew Report

A Little Honesty About the Pew Report

Back in May, the Pew Research Center released a study that showed the percentage of people claiming to be Christians had rapidly decreased over the past several years. Humanists were elated. “See,” they shouted, “we told you religion is dying.” Church leaders wrung their hands and blamed the culture, liberal seminaries, and lukewarm church members for the decline. “The culture has become hostile to the faith,” they told us, “and the weak are falling away.”

I have a little different take on this. I don’t think the Pew study is shocking. I just think the study is honest. I’ve been doing what I do for a long time, and here’s a dirty little secret that no one will tell you: we’ve never had as many Christians or church members as we have claimed. Anybody who works in a church can tell you this. In a typical church, attendance will be half of the total membership, and a “healthy church” will have 80% of those who attend worship involved in Sunday School or Bible Study.

If you serve an older church, one that’s been around for over 50 years or so, you literally won’t be able to find 25% to 50% of the membership. They will have moved, died, or joined another church, but never updated their membership status. The published numbers of church membership and those claiming to be followers of Christ have always been suspect.

There are several reasons for this. For one thing, several years ago, there was a great deal of social pressure to be a “member” of a local church. You didn’t have to attend, participate, or even give. You just had to be a member. As a result, our churches were filled with “members” who never intended to be a part of church life.

Our demographics are different. Populations are changing and churches have been slow (ok, totally failed) to respond in meaningful ways to the needs of the new communities around them.

Now, our culture has changed and there’s no longer any social pressure to be part of a church. Sunday has become just another day in the weekend. People attend entertainment events, ball games, shop, go to the lake or the beach, and never think twice about missing worship. If you ask them, they will tell you point blank, “We don’t go to church anywhere.”

And there you have it—an honest answer. For me, this is the great revelation of the Pew Research study. People are now honest about their spiritual choices. I, for one, welcome the new reality. Now, we know where we stand.

And yes, there’s a great challenge before the local church, but for me, I find great freedom in this new honesty. People are declaring their preferences and from there, it’s a lot easier to start the conversation about Christ, faith, and what matters in life.

The Pew study didn’t tell us anything we didn’t already know. We may not have wanted to admit it, but we knew it. Churches and church leaders are going to have to make some hard decisions—either become missional or become extinct. The Pew study makes our choice a little easier, a little more obvious.

After all, now that we know what we know, we really don’t have an excuse, do we?

Returning the Mystery to Your Marriage [Podcast]

Returning the Mystery to Your Marriage [Podcast]

Today’s podcast is an excerpt of a sermon I recently preached from Ephesians 5. When we talk about the issue of marriage, let’s confess that we as the church of Jesus Christ have surrendered the biblical understanding of marriage to a romanticized fantasy that is perpetuated by our culture. The first place that biblical marriage has to be restored is in the church. We can’t continue to do cute weddings anymore. We must hold weddings, and encourage marriages that are committed to the lordship of Jesus Christ.