Spiritual Lessons From “The Walking Dead”

Recently, I finished every episode of The Walking Dead to date. Beyond the compelling characters, rich storylines, and incomparable acting, the parallels to the spiritual walk are impressive. The gruesome scenes, notwithstanding.

What follows are three critical lessons about the Christian life I observed while watching.

You don’t know what people are really like until you observe them under pressure. Only then do their true colors emerge. This sober fact is brought out powerfully in The Walking Dead.


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The Case For Christian Intolerance

We, as Christians, ought to be totally, completely intolerant of evil and blasphemy. We should neither respect it nor dismiss it as mere “entertainment.” When someone mocks our God, we ought to oppose them forcefully and relentlessly. Shouting it down might not always be the answer, but shouting is at least better than whispering or saying nothing.

There are too many “offended” whiners in our culture who get their feelings hurt over the smallest perceived slight, so I am not recommending mere offendedness at personal insults. Those we must endure and often ignore – a skill many of our nation’s college students need to learn. But Christians ought to be outraged, incensed, and infuriated by heinous attacks against God, faith, and virtue. Jesus tells us to turn the other cheek when someone slaps us, but He makes no such recommendation when someone slaps God or His commandments.


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How America Ruined The Gospel

There is a common belief among Americans that following Jesus will help you get what you want in life. In this story, the “good news” is good because it brings individual satisfaction and pleasure. The good news of the biblical Gospel is that people can be reconciled to God. That may or may not have anything to do with your material prosperity or comfort. (more…)

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How Consumer Church Wears Everyone Out

I wonder if the American church is setting itself up for failure? If church structure— which is geared toward meeting every need, developing everyone spiritually and organizing all inward and outward ministry — results in a 90 percent failure rate, perhaps we should reevaluate.

I wonder if a “Come to us and we will do it all, lead it all, organize it all, calendar it all, execute it all, innovate it all, care for it all and fund it all” framework is even biblical? It sets leaders and followers up for failure, creating a church-centric paradigm in which discipleship is staff-led and program-driven.

This slowly builds a consumer culture wherein spiritual responsibility is transferred from Christians to the pastors, a recipe for disaster.

Evaluate your church culture and decide if you are making disciples or consumers.



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The Irrelevance Of Relevant Christianity

Do people want Christianity to be cool? What happens when churches become too driven by the desire to be trend-savvy and culturally relevant? Can a church balance hipster credibility within an orthodox tradition?

Further time will tell whether the legacy of the “hipster Christianity” phenomenon will be one of decline or revival for churches. It could be that in certain parts of the world, and particularly in cities, cool churches are exactly what is needed to inject life into stagnant tradition.

But my guess is that sooner rather than later it will become clear that what people want from church is something different than what is offered on the pages of Vogue or the streets of Brooklyn.

Christianity’s true relevance lies not in the gospel’s comfortable trendiness but in its uncomfortable transcendence, as a truth with the power to rebuff, renew and restore wayward humanity as every epoch in history.


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The Double Standard Of A Culture That Mocks Modesty

I’ve been thinking about the “double standards” of modesty supposedly held by men. I’m sure many of us remember quite a tempest in the internet teapot about yoga pants not too long ago. A number of women, bloggers and commenters alike, came down on the “well, just don’t look!” side of things.

What I didn’t see was a lot of concern on the part of women for their own souls. So busy are they, worrying about whether the rest of us ought to police our own eyes that they ignore the fact that the way a person dresses both affects and reflects her own thoughts.

If your heart is tender, admitting and avoiding your own sinful nature, you will avert your eyes. Then, in the world’s view, you are the wrong-doer. They (men and women, don’t forget) want to be sexy everywhere, all the time, and they demand that we not be embarrassed. It’s a pretty glaring double standard, isn’t it, that women think they should be able to call attention to whatever body parts they like, and the rest of us, men and women alike, have to pretend not to see it?


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Jim Gaffigan’s Intersection Of Faith & Media

Gaffigan seems to realize that he does have a voice in the realm of religious conversation—as evidenced from the The Jim Gaffigan Show—but his more organic approach to the intersection between his personal life and comedy creates a natural, rather than explicit, response to religious conversation and the culture wars. He’s a comedian who’s also a Christian, rather than a Christian who happens to be a comedian.


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History Can Save Us From Apostacy

More often than not, when I talk to twentysomethings who are seriously contemplating walking away from their faith, the main stumbling block is an intellectual one. My faith didn’t have the deep intellectual roots necessary to flourish outside of a youth group setting. For many twentysomethings, the moment the intellectual credibility of faith is challenged and there’s no immediately satisfying answer, they’re out. This is where a robust understanding and deep study of Church history became my lifeboat.

The faith of my youth had mainly been informed by emotional altar calls and evangelical clichés; neither of these components are inherently wrong, but this culture alone wasn’t enough for me to face an increasingly secular world. Through their writings, ancient Church fathers became like mentors who helped me see that the doubts we wrestle with today are the same questions those who came before us struggled with too. Studying Church history  can help us develop a strong sense of what Dr. Duke calls our “intergenerational self.” Or, as Feiler puts it, we begin to understand that we’re part of something much bigger than ourselves.


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Maybe Christianity Is Loosing Traction Because It’s Boring

And this is the problem with Christianity in this country. Not just inside our church buildings, but everywhere. It often has no edge, no depth. No sense of its own ancient and epic history. There is no sacredness to it. No pain. No beauty. No reverence. Or I should say Christianity has all of those things, fundamentally and totally, but many modern Christians in every denomination have spent many years trying to blunt them or bury them under a thousand layers of icing and whipped cream and apathy.

That’s been the strategy of the American church for decades: just try not to scare people. They put on this milquetoast, tedious, effeminate charade, feigning hipness and relevance, aping secular culture, and then furrow their brows and shake their heads in bewilderment when everyone gets bored and walks away.

There are still plenty of Christians who desire the true faith, but they are mostly ignored or scolded by the very people who should be leading them. And the Convenientists, of course, find no happiness in their secular Christianity, nor do they find it in secular secularism. Even if they don’t know it, they yearn in the pit of their souls for the true message of Christ, but they rarely hear it. And when they do hear it, there are a million competing voices, many from inside the church, warning them that if they go down this road it might involve changing their behavior and their lifestyle, which is a total hassle, man.


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‘The Nones’ Are The New Religious Elite

Christianity still dominates American religious identity (70%), but the survey shows dramatic shifts as more people move out the doors of denominations, shedding spiritual connections along the way.

Atheists and agnostics have nearly doubled their share of the religious marketplace, and overall indifference to religion of any sort is rising as well.

The “nones” — Americans who are unaffiliated with brand-name religion — are the new major force in American faith. And they are more secular in outlook — and “more comfortable admitting it” than ever before, said John Green, director of the Bliss Institute of Applied Politics at the University of Akron.


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How Islam Will Win The [Demographic] War

A declining fertility rate in our culture is evidence that we have, as a culture, devalued children and family. We have done so to a point that our very future is now in question, though we may not realize it yet. One culture that is going against this trend is the Muslim culture. In countries all around the world, Muslim populations are gradually becoming the majority, no weapons or violence necessary. Muslims will become a dominant force in the world simply by maintaining a strong belief in the power of multi-generational family while the rest of the world squanders its fertility in preference of other short-sighted goals. The changing demographics are a consequence of different values and worldview.


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You Can’t Childproof The World But You Can Worldproof Your Child

My 8 year old looked at me with her deep brown eyes and said, “The world is scary.”

I turned the TV off and wondered how to teach my kids about real love-the kind that makes us pray for our neighbors in the war on terror while shutting out the lure of our anything-goes culture.

It hit close to home. And it made me long for another home. Because I can’t protect my kids from the world we live in.


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American Sniper Raises Important Questions About Use Of Language

“Savage” is the term that some Christians, or simply Westerners, used to justify their colonial conquest of indigenous peoples who didn’t have the proper sort of cultures, forms of dress, or skin colors. Without sitting on too high of a horse as we look back on our forebears, we have to remember that some considered it part of the White Man’s Burden to conquer the savages, educate them, and give them the Truth of Western culture so that they might not have to dwell in the darkness of their former bestiality. If some had to be killed, enslaved, or tortured in order for that to happen, well, so be it. Cultural heroism required bearing a heavy load and doing what is necessary to ennoble humanity as a whole.


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How The Church Shot Itself In The Foot Amid The Culture Wars

When Rome commandeered Christianity, it affixed to the faith something it was never meant to be marked by: Power.

That power, and the privilege, and ease, and comfort, and influence that came with it, at once became synonymous with the Christian faith. A movement that began as the very antidote to status, position, might, and social inequality; suddenly became the establishment, it became the norm, it became the very culture that Jesus pushed so hard against.

Modern Evangelical Christianity, especially in America, is up against a true identity crisis.


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School Shootings Are The Fruit Of A Culture Obsessed With Self-Esteem

So, what causes someone to pick up a gun, walk on to a school campus, and start shooting people?

One researcher has argued that “modern society, with its emphasis on individualism and the pursuit of material happiness, fosters narcissism.” And, in the suburban settings where nearly all the shootings have taken place, “self-worth is defined by the likes of socioeconomic status, achievements in competitive academics and athletics, and fashion.”

In this culture of narcissism, “affronts to self-esteem can be equated with threats to our very survival and … the typical response to such narcissistic injuries is a desire for revenge.”


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The Real And Raw Reasons Why People Are Leaving Church

Hey Church, you may think you know why people are leaving you, but I’m not sure you do.

You think it’s because “the culture” is so lost, so perverse, so beyond help that they are all walking away. You believe that they’ve turned a deaf ear to the voice of God; chasing money, and sex, and material things. You think that the gays and the Muslims and the Atheists and the pop stars have so screwed up the morality of the world that everyone is abandoning faith in droves.

But those aren’t the reasons people are leaving you.

They aren’t the problem, Church.


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Maybe Our Cultural Holidays Can Be Redeemed For Missional Purposes

Cultural celebrations are not man-made institutions. Like much of God’s creation, holidays can be—and have been—distorted for all sorts of less-than-holy purposes. But what if “Santa” really isn’t an anagram for “Satan”? What if we can can we redeem this holiday season, and use it for God’s work?


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Take A Peek At The Evangelical Sexual Revolution

Evangelicals have long been known for their ability to sanctify popular culture for religious purposes. Popular culture’s obsession with sex is no exception, which raises an evangelistic question: How do we make the gospel winsome to a society steeped in sex? Our answer, according to a new book, has been to affirm that great sex in marriage testifies to the good news of the gospel. We sanctify sex, promising better sex when the Bible is the primary guide.


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American Beauties Are All East Of Eden

The 1999 film American Beauty captured the imaginations of multitudes of Americans. The film speaks to me on many levels, including the theme that things are not always as they appear.  American Beauty brings me back to the primal story involving the biblical characters Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3), where everything was not as it appeared. It is everyone’s story, including middle class people fixated with fictional notions of American beauty.


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Alan Hirsch’s Vision For The Five Fold Ministry In America

Missiologist, Alan Hirsch, talks with Ed Stetzer about the future of Christianity in America amid its increasingly secularized culture. They also discuss the importance of recovering a vision for the 5 key gifts Christ gave to his Church from Ephesians 4.

Note: Jump to the 6:15 mark in the video to bypass the fluffy stuff and get straight to the good stuff with Alan Hirsch.


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How To Follow Christ Amid The Culture Wars In America

Above all, we should approach American culture without panic or anger. This will be difficult. We will see things happening that we do, and should, lament, things that were kept from happening by the veneer of American civil religion.

The church now has the opportunity to bear witness in a culture that often does not even pretend to share our “values.” That is not a tragedy since we were never given a mission to promote “values” in the first place, but to speak instead of sin and of righteousness and of judgment, of Christ and his kingdom.


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Car Culture Is Really Affinity Culture And It Affects Church More Than You Think

The fact is undeniable: for megachurches, cars are essential. It’s probably more accurate to say that cars created the megachurch. Without them, these churches simply couldn’t exist in the form they do today.

The abundance of choices and the absence of limitations is the blessing and the curse of the car. And church shopping may not be a problem of character. Not only has car culture nurtured an emphasis on affinity, but it has also altered ecclesiology (our beliefs about the church). Cars have put church “consumers” in the driver’s seat like never before, and church leaders are forced to buckle up for the ride.

Note: Clicking the “Read More” button below will take you to the first of five pages of this article. Use the links at the bottom of the first page to navigate to subsequent pages.


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Sunday Sermon: 2 Chron 7:14 Not A Prooftext, But A Call To Faithfulness

Today’s Sunday Sermon is only 6 minutes long. This video observes how 2Chronicles 7:14 is so commonly quoted in contexts where Christians are bemoaning the evil in the world and the immorality of American culture. There is a tendency to call on God to “heal our land” while we ignore his call to live faithfully.


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What To Do About The Problems Of Celebrity, Consumerism, And Competition In The American Church

Mike Breen: If we think through Celebrity, Consumerism and Competition, the anti-body against all of these is sacrifice. Learning to lay down what builds us up and giving to others instead. Learning to serve, rather than to be served. Looking for anonymity rather than celebrity. To build a culture of producers rather than a consumers. To live in a vibrant, sacrificial community fighting a real enemy rather than competing against the same community God has given us to fight WITH rather than AGAINST.


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Should Christians Practice Yoga?

Some questions we ask today would simply baffle our ancestors. When Christians ask whether believers should practice yoga, they are asking a question that betrays the strangeness of our current cultural moment — a time in which yoga seems almost mainstream in America.

It was not always so. The embrace of yoga is a symptom of our postmodern spiritual confusion, and, to our shame, this confusion reaches into the church.


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All Of Society Suffers When Boys Can’t Become Men

About 150 years ago, Western men began forming and joining organizations that promoted a noble vision of manhood. That infrastructure created some of the finest men the world has ever known. We called them “the greatest generation.” They built the most prosperous economy in history and presided over an era of unprecedented peace.

Yet for the past fifty years we have been dismantling the very infrastructure that made these men great, in the name of gender equality.


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How Christians Should Watch Movies

Art is to be enjoyed, admired, and appreciated for its beauty as well as the medium in which that beauty is expressed. Art is also an outward expression of the beliefs and values of its artist. Art is beauty but it is also a message. Unfortunately, people often watch movies as passive observers treating the stories in movies as mere entertainment without giving due attention to the message being presented.  We believe that every expression of art, whether it is a movie, a song, or a painting, is a medium to communicate a certain worldview of its creator with an accompanying message. We also believe it is our responsibility as humans (created Images of God endowed with the ability to create) to discern whether this worldview is in line with the Christian worldview expressed by the Author of Life through Scripture.


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Sunday Sermon: How The Bible Critiques Western Views Of Family

Jeremy Pryor offers a compelling contrast between western views of family and the biblical view of family. The insights he offers here will be extremely valuable to anyone who is looking to strengthen their family culture but can’t find much inspiration for that from American culture. The Bible has a great deal to say about family, but the lenses through which we read the bible as 21st century Americans often prohibit us from seeing the vision for family that is given in Scripture. This sermon helps add clarity so that we can catch the Bible’s vision for family. Let us know what you think in the comments below. (more…)

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