Archive - January, 2012

Survey says: church is useless?

“Almost half of churchgoing Americans say their life has not changed a bit due to their time in the pews”

“Three out of five church attenders said they could not recall an important new religious insight from their last church visit.”

“Millions of active participants find their church experiences to be lacking”


This Huffington Post article can be summarized in one sentence: church is useless. Apparently, a Barna Group survey shows that half of church attenders report that they are not impacted by their church experience. And, the article suggests pastors should be appalled at these findings.

AAAHHH!!! After reading those ‘facts’, how could you not want to scream? Or at least be irritated enough to ponder how something as transformational as faith doesn’t seem to be changing the lives of those participating in it?  So who exactly  is to blame for the frustrating statistics?

1) The Barna Group [and/or the Huffington Post]

I know that I shouldn’t shoot the messenger. However, I find it difficult to believe that statisticians -especially Christians specializing in ministry statistics- could create a survey that’s results included the fact that “Churchgoing has no effect on 50% of Americans”. Either the Huffington Post has horrible reporting, or this survey had horribly constructed questions.

How do you define change? Good polling questions have specific answers that make analysis possible without leading polltakers to particular conclusions. What was the question that produced this statistic? I’d really like to know because I find it impossible to believe that an activity that comprises at least an hour of someone’s week and involves interactions with other humans has no effect on someone’s life whatsoever.

Even if they sit in a pew bored out of their mind and do not relate to or retain any of the experience, that experience still impacted them in some way. Only a delusional  understanding of the world and a bad hermeneutic could lead someone to truly believe that how they spend their time has no effect on their life. [Yes, I'm arguing semantics and methods, but they are so important!]

2) The Survey Takers-

If you truly belief that church has no effect on your life, I’d really like to ask you a few questions. Do you consider yourself Christian? If so, why do you embrace that label? If you believe that Jesus loves you, I’m assuming your life has been changed in some way by His presence?

Perhaps you go to church because you like the music or because you like the people or because you feel like you have to go. That’s totally cool, but I should warn you: God is kind of in the life transformation business. It’s impossible to encounter Him and walk away unchanged.

If you already know this, why do you find church useless? The teaching isn’t interesting enough? The community seems hypocritical? Your pastors aren’t making enough of a difference in your community? Mr. Survey-taker, I hate to break this to you, but the Church is the body of Christ. If you believe in Jesus, you are part of the Church. Church isn’t an entertainment industry devoted to making you have weekly “uh huh” moments and warm fuzzy feelings. Perhaps you find the Church useless because you have yet to consider yourself are a part of it. May I suggest trying to become some of the changes you would like to see? For example, if you find the sermons boring, maybe you could volunteer to help lead a more interesting Bible study? If your experience in a community of believers hasn’t changed you, perhaps it’s because you’ve refused to let it.

3) Ministry Folk-

I’m kind of angry that this article seems to blame you for the perceived uselessness of churches. I’m sorry for that. I know that you try really hard to serve God and to create a setting in which people can appreciate their church experience. I thank you for that, but I need to acknowledge that you impact this statistic too.

If you make the Gospel boring, you need to do something differently. The good news is not boring! It’s exciting! God is restoring the world and we get to be a part of it! It sucks at times, but overall the message is really good and should not put people to sleep every week.

And please, stop trying to make Church a great experience. It’s not an experience; it’s a community. Commit yourself to loving God and loving people. Share the truth. Welcome people. Allow people to play a role in your community. Be open to new ideas. Foster continued maturity. Encourage people to do life together outside of the Sunday service. And, remember that it’s okay to brag about how God is working within your community.  Forget about increasing the numbers of satisfied attenders and focus on being a good steward of the resources and influence God gave you. If you invite the Holy Spirit into your gatherings, He will continue to transform people’s lives.

4) Me, Myself, and I

Secretly, I take pleasure in these statistics. I like seeing that the Church is falling. I like ‘facts’ that confirm what I already know. I’ve been put to sleep by those boring pastors and I’ve ranted about not getting anything useful out of the sermons. In a sick twisted way, I’m glad that someone sees my point.

I want a reason to be angry with the Church. I want to be able to explain why this community isn’t as fantastic as it could be. I want to be able to blame the lack of change in my own life on my surroundings. I’m a hypocrite because everyone else is a hypocrite. I’m reluctant because everyone else is reluctant. I’ll be more radical when someone will be radical with me. I like these statistics because I like excuses and I like being able to declare that I am different than the status quo.

The truth is that I’m just as much to blame for the statistics as anyone else. I’ve refused to play my role in the community at times. I’ve forgotten the excitement of the Gospel. I’ve withheld the good news of Jesus’s love out of fear that people wouldn’t enjoy the hearing the truth. I’ve been exclusive and have chased people away with my Christianese . I’ve failed to build relationships with people sitting next to me in the pews. I’ve showed up grumpy to a worship service because I hadn’t slept the night before and forgot that worship was a joyful occasion not a chore. I’ve failed to allow my experience as part of the Church to continually change my life, and as a result I’ve hindered my ability to encourage others to embrace God’s transformation in their lives as well.

I’m part of the problem with Church in America. The good news is that I’m also a part of the solution. And, you can be too.

So, how do we respond to these statistics? How do we make sure that the Church takes her place as a catalyst for love, grace, and lasting change?


Embracing change.

“You care a lot about your web presence, don’t lie”

Unfortunately, I wasn’t lying. For five years, I’ve used the same blog. Never applied useful categories or tags. Ignored dead links. Promised to write posts that I never published… At best, I’ve been inconsistent and this blog has been left underdeveloped.

I write because I cannot help but share what I’m learning. My aspirations in life are also my goals for this blog: to serve God, to love people, and to laugh whenever possible. I want to wrestle with the hard questions. To explore what it means to live a radical faith. To discover more of this crazy world in which we live. To be amazed by the presence of the Lord in everyday encounters.

I share hoping that others might stumble across my ramblings and be inspired to serve, to love , to laugh… to look for opportunities to learn as well. I share because I’m just crazy enough to think that others may find some value in my imperfect insights.

While I’ve poured my heart into my writing, I haven’t invested the time and energy needed to create a site that represents who I am and what I believe in. And, it definitely isn’t a space that says “come in, sit down, join the conversation“.

I’m sorry!  Forgive my lack of hospitality. And, excuse my renovations.

The good news is that this new year is bringing some exciting changes.  As you’ve probably already noticed, I’m completely revamping my blog. It may take a few weeks to redesign, reformat and reorganize. After that, I’m going to be blogging  much more consistently. I’ll share some more of my thoughts about this soon.

For now, I could really use your advice!  Thank you for accompanying me on this journey. Whether you have be a part of my story for years or just stumbled here moments ago, I appreciate your support. And, I want you to be a part of the change.

Here’s how you can help…

  • What should I call this blog? “Born today” and “It’s [Not That] radical” were both previous titles, but neither seems to capture the essence of who I am and what I share. Do you have any ideas?
  • What would you like to see more of? Book reviews, theology, thoughts on current events, stories from experience, modern day parables, poetry, vlogs.. which posts do you find most interesting/beneficial?
  • Would you consider giving me some feedback as I redesign? Do you have an eye for ascetics? Or some creative or technical insight? Let me know if you want to lend a hand or some constructive criticism.
  • Would you pray for some God ideas to infiltrate my life? Ultimately, this space isn’t about me and I’m praying for some God prospective to reveal what this site should be used.

Thanks again! Here’s to more online adventures … =]

- Kera

Strategy vs. Submission

Zero. Out of all the areas of growth I targeted for 2011, I didn’t make significant progress in a single one of them

It’s funny how we always start the year determined to become better people, but rarely do we follow through. New Year’s resolutions are almost laughable. That’s why columnists and relatives alike will encourage you to set “realistic” goals. “Set benchmarks that you can accomplish. Don’t set yourself up for failure. Guarantee success by sticking with a fool-proof method.”  I don’t know about you, but I’m starting to wonder whether there is any value at all in developing “realistic” strategies.

When I wrote “11 for 11… and beyond“, I sincerely desired growth in each of the areas listed. A year later, I’m reading over the post nodding my head in agreement- excited about the possibilities. BUT, there is still a little voice in the back of my mind saying “you can’t do that. Be realistic. Come up with a plan. What are your tangible goals?

Today I am publicly telling that  little voice to shut up and mind its own damn business.

As I entered 2011, I didn’t have a strategy. Sure, I set out areas of growth and I had some idea of how I could ask others to hold me accountable for those changes. But, I didn’t have a step-by-step plan. I simply wanted to follow Jesus and see where He led me. 

As the months progressed, I had a ton of voices speaking into my life. Most of which had good intentions and were genuinely concerned for my future. The little voice inside my head liked all the rational advice I was receiving  and continued to champion the formation of a strategy for success. [I should pause to note that the little voice is just for illustration- there is no need for exorcisms or any medication at this point in time]And so in an effort to please all the voices in my life, I began to be more rational and I began to develop rational plans. I became a little less idealistic, hoping to gain the approval and support of others.

Consequently, I lost my sense of self and my sense of calling … and I completely burnt-out multiple times this year. [Read more about what I learned about burning out and missing out here].

This morning I spent a few hours trying to figure out what 2012 would bring. “Should I transfer schools? Apply to work with other ministries? Finally begin an internship program? Take a few months off to try to work and diminish my student loan debt? Which city should I move to?” Too many questions!

I spent a few hours looking up information online about hypothetical strategies and plans for this new year.  Then unexpectedly a tear fell from my eye, and next thing you know, I’m flooding my living room.

Why are you doing this Kera? Where did strategizing get you this year? This isn’t you and you know it. Consider the journey, what do you want from this year?

Okay. *deep breath* What do I want? I want this year to not be 2011. The best parts of last twelve months didn’t fit in my rational plan: distance education seminary classes and three months in Ibiza.  “Then why are you attempting to adopt a new strategy for 2012?” I have no idea… maybe I should just pursue God, amend my path as the Spirit leads, and simply live life in faith.

Welcome to my internal dialogue. It’s actually a little messier than that, but you get the picture.

The question of “what do you want from the journey?” is haunting me. “If you could do anything this year, what would it be? Where do you want to go? What do you want to learn? “You don’t even want me to begin to answer that question.

I want to learn to live by faith. To follow the Spirit with reckless abandon. To live as simply as possible and to love more deeply than I’m capable.

I want to learn to be humble. To walk in the power of God. To be confident of who I am in Him.

I want to live life on the edge with the trust that God is moving my adventure forward. To give prophetic words to strangers. To offer hospitality to those who least expect it and who least deserve it. To worship in the darkest places.

I want to get lost in scripture and to pray with reckless abandon. To learn to be fearless in this world but to have a holy fear of God that continually brings me to my knees. 

I want to be a mouthpiece of the Gospel. To allow my soul to pour out into my writing. To use every quirky, artsy, crazy fiber of my being to spread His message. 

I want to learn to love and be loved. To love myself for who I am. To invite others into my life, knowing that relationships are messy. To befriend both the afflicted and the inflicter. 

I want to laugh and to cry more than I ever have before. To celebrate risks. To devote my all to the cause of Christ.


I know that sounds idealistic. It’s  crazy and terrifying. There is no security or stability or strategy. Guess what? I wouldn’t have it any other way.  Realistic pursuits are overrated, and extremely temporal.  I want to be a part of something eternal.

So little voice that tries to scare me into adopting a rational strategy for my life, keep the muzzle on… because I’m trading my strategy for submission. In 2012, I want to learn to live by faith.