Category Archives: Contemporary Church Culture

What is Wrong with the Church? It’s You, You’re What’s Wrong!


lucy surpriseThat’s right!  I said it, and for God’s sake SOMEONE had to tell you!  You still don’t get it, do you?  Your theology is warped, your view of worship is flawed, you are too worldly, you never share the gospel, you don’t give enough and you certainly don’t serve enough.  I could go on and on and on with your failures to live up to the standards of Christ as I see them.  What is wrong with Christianity you ask?  It is you, you are the problem.

I feel a LOT better now, thanks for letting me get that off my chest!

I want to say that on one hand, I am not being serious.  But on the other hand, there is some truth to what I am saying.  Let me explain… Read the rest of this entry

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It May Be A Legal Right, But it Seems Wrong, Doesn’t it?


Aborted Baby2“Give the priest your newborn child! He will place it into Molech’s hands as your offering. You are not allowed to weep as the infant is burned alive. Instead, rejoice as you seek his favor!”

I cannot imagine what that scene would be like. Watching somebody sacrifice their newborn child would be a totally new category for me. What feelings would be aroused as I stood there and witnessed a human infant being placed ALIVE into the white hot iron hands of Molech and then burned alive? Would I rush to the child’s defense? Would I try to talk his/her parents out of it? Would I accept the fact that they could do anything they wanted with their child and leave them be? Would I turn my eyes away or would I watch it unfold? Would I shrug my shoulders in indifference? What would you do? Read the rest of this entry

Barna Study: Even Christians Are Leaving Our Churches


Why Christians are Leaving ChurchThe church may want to stop focusing on those elusive and extremely sensitive “seekers” for a while, because now, even believers are starting to leave the church.

We were warned back in 2005 that this was coming, but few paid attention to it then.  Many scoffed and pretended it could never happen.  But it is happening. That is what a recent poll by the Barna Group has uncovered, and the implications of it are alarming.

In this article, I want to share some of Barna’s findings with you.  I warn you:  Brace yourself!

I invite you to join the discussion in the comment section, as well as answer the polling questions (there are two polls at the bottom of the post) so we can get a better idea of what is going on from your perspective.   In the next post we will offer our analysis about why it is happening.

“What, if anything, helps Americans grow in their faith?”

When the Barna Group asked this question, people offered a variety of answers:

  • Prayer
  • Family or friends
  • Reading the Bible,
  • Even having children

But CHURCH did not even crack the top 10 list.

That is staggering in its implication.  Christians of all Read the rest of this entry

Sometimes Our Biggest Problems are Staring us in the Face!


Life's biggest problems

Are the Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant Views on How One is Saved Actually That Different?


What-must-I-do-to-be-saved Not for itching ears

Not Really!

I am beginning to think that there is less disagreement between the Protestant view and the Catholic / Orthodox view on salvation than we realize.

The misunderstanding is a result of how each part of the church defines “salvation.”

When a Protestant talks about “being saved”, “getting saved”, “accepting Christ” or any other number of terms we use for this, we are primarily referring to the idea of forgiveness of sins. Our sins are forgiven when we “come to Christ”. We have been ‘saved” from sins eternal penalty.  We can not earn this forgiveness of sins, it is a merciful free gift from God and we resist anything that makes it look like it must be earned.

In this sense Salvation IS an event, we have been forgiven of our sins!  However, Read the rest of this entry

Questioning Our Protestant Tradition of Sola Scriptura


Not for itching ears Sola ScripturaNothing but Scripture?

It is becoming apparent to me that no church, no theologian, no follower of Christ actually lives out their faith based on the idea of Sola Scriptura.

Sola scriptura as a principle states that Scripture alone is authoritative for the faith and practice of the Christian.   The Protestants among us recognize this and embrace it wholeheartedly.  It sounds good on paper.  It really does.  Why do we need anything but the Scriptures to help us form the doctrinal positions that shape our faith?  “WE DON’T” shout the reformers among us!

The problem with their answer is it is demonstrably not true.   I’ve never met anyone who actually practices this idea and neither have you. The New Testament church certainly did not.  Read the rest of this entry

Can You See The Difference Between Contemporary Worship and Early Church Worship?


Contemporary worship vs Early Worship

Worship Leaders: It IS all about YOU!


All about youLike it or not, if you are the worship leader at your church, it IS all..about…you!  Just not in the way you would expect.

You are in charge of planning, preparing and executing one third to one half of the entire service.  How well you do that is essential to the people you are charged with leading week after week.

I know there is a lot more to being a good song leader than what the congregations hears on Sunday morning.  It takes a lot of work away from the stage to create a service that effectively inspires God’s people to worship rather than being entertained.  The responsibility for that lies squarely on your shoulders.  In that sense, it IS all about you.  It is about how you view the gathering and how you prepare for it.

Choosing Better Songs

If you want the majority of the men and women in the congregation to sing with the team, you Read the rest of this entry

Is the Casual Approach to Church Producing Casual Christians?


it's worseIt is worse than it looks!

It doesn’t  matter which study you read about the church, because they all say pretty much the same thing:  The church is in decline.

The church is in trouble.  I don’t need to read a study to know this.  I have observed it over the years in countless churches that I have visited.  Churches are weak and though they may have exciting services, they are largely failing to develop strong, grounded and mature Christians.  The church at large (there are exceptions, of course) is also failing to impact the lost around her.

The statistics on this are over-whelming and should stop every pastor and leader dead in their tracks so that we immediately fall on our knees to cry out to the Lord “What are we doing wrong?”  Sooner or later that will have to happen.  Let’s pray it is the former!

Is This Decline the Result of a Flawed Church Model?

I have a theory.  It goes something like this:  The decline we are seeing in the church is directly related to Read the rest of this entry

Everything I Know About The Lord I Learned In Church?


study the word“Your challenge is NOT that people won’t believe what you teach.

Your challenge is that most people are going to believe EVERYTHING you teach.  When you stand in the pulpit and teach God’s word, you better make sure you know what you are talking about!”

I have never forgotten how my Greek professor started that Intro to Greek class.  He laid out a challenge to the entire class that has shaped me all these years.   When I was preaching every week, it guided my preparation time.    It is why I spent 30-40 hours every week as a pastor studying the texts I was teaching on.  I took it THAT seriously.

A lot of us out here in the blogosphere know how to study the scriptures for ourselves. We read books and articles all the time that help shape our faith and practice.  Still, vast majorities of people rely on the church corporately and pastors specifically to teach them the faith.  How are we doing?

According to a report by George Barna, the church is failing miserably in this area.  “Believers” know less and less about God and understand the Bible less and less.  Yet it is the Church’s job to make disciples and to “Teach them to Obey everything I (Jesus) commanded you.”

Why is this happening?  If you read this blog, you know that I don’t lack an opinion on this!

Could one of those reasons be the failure of our younger pastors to grasp the significance of their preaching task?  I have been to over 30  40 different churches in the last 8 years.  One of the things I have noticed is the casual manner that a majority of pastors have towards their preaching.  I can tell when someone has prepared.  It is obvious to a wordsmith when a fellow wordsmith has put in the study and preparation time.  It is just as obvious when they are winging it.

From what I have seen, many pastors are winging it!

The reasons for this can be summed up into to broad categories:   Time Management and Skill/training

Pastoring has never been an easy job.  Preaching week after week is not for the faint of heart.  The demands of today’s ministry on a pastor’s time only make it harder to be faithful in your study.  I am no longer pastoring, and I can’t imagine how difficult it would be to get quiet alone time to study in today’s world.

For many pastors, there just isn’t enough time to adequately study AND keep up with the ever increasing demands of today’s ministry.  The only solution I know for this is to let other things go.  Pastor, if you find that you don’t have time week after week to study the word and show yourself approved, you need cut other less valuable things out of your schedule.  You know what those things are.

The other issue that may be causing this “Wing It!” mentality is a lack of skill in studying the Bible.  Judging by what I’ve seen, our seminaries may no longer teach Hermeneutics.  I doubt they are teaching Homiletics.   If you don’t know how to study a text or passage, and you are a preacher, you need to stop reading this and go learn how to do it!

When you stand in that pulpit to teach God’s word, we are listening!  We are ready to believe what you teach.  Many of us will believe what you teach even when you are off base and wrong, due to a lack of serious thought on the text.  For our sake, and for His sake, take some extra time and prepare the way you should.

If your pastor is already doing this, rejoice!  Send him a note and thank him!  Encourage him to keep doing it!  Find out when he studies and never call or email or text him during those times, unless it is a real emergency.   Teach others in the congregation to do the same.  Help guard your pastors study time, and you, he and the entire congregation will be the better for it!

Why God Might Not Be Concerned About Our Doctrinal Differences


blog-oh-my-god“Maybe it doesn’t matter to Him?”

I asked, as my friend looked on in utter disbelief at what had just been said. We had been discussing the state of the church in its four major divisions: Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican and Protestant. (For the sake of brevity, I have lumped all us Protestants into one category. I don’t have time to list us all!)

“Of course THE Church matters to God”, he replied, “He died to give it birth!

I can’t argue with that!

What perplexes me though, is that there are so many different types of churches. Clearly a lack of unity within THE church has eluded us. Catholics believe in purgatory, the other three divisions of the church, don’t. That is a pretty significant difference. We can’t all agree on how many books are actually in God’s Holy Word! That also seems significant. Some of the churches teach that how one lives has absolutely nothing to do with one’s salvation, while others teach that it has a lot to do with it, still others are somewhere in-between. Maybe it is just how I think about things, but I would have to say this one is a critical difference of doctrine. We have Catholic decrees calling the Reformers heretics, and we have the Reformers labeling the Pope the anti-Christ. Orthodox and Catholics are at odds over one word in the Creed among other substantial issues. We can’t even seem to agree on the purpose of Christianity.

Then we have us Protestants who agree to disagree!

We agree that Jesus Christ died on the cross for “our” sins, but we can’t agree on who is included in “our”. We believe there is such an important and critical thing as the Atonement, but can’t agree on what it actually entails. We believe that people worked miracles, but can’t seem to agree on when or IF that has stopped. We can’t agree on how a church should conduct itself in worship. We can’t agree on something as simple as how a person actually comes to Christ. We can’t agree on what it means to follow Christ. We don’t agree on a host of important issues.

The world looks at us and sees “Christian” sects that argue amongst themselves and who can’t seem to agree on the essentials. We are divided, pure and simple. Stating otherwise is foolish and wishful thinking.

“Maybe it doesn’t matter to Him?”

Of course, Jesus did pray for “those who would believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one…May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me…” (John 17:20-21, 23.) Unity was important enough to pray for on the eve of the crucifixion.   It would seem the Father didn’t answer that one in the affirmative. Or am I missing something?

Why would God have allowed that to happen?

Many Protestants believe that around 300AD the real church was infiltrated and perverted by the Catholic Church. As a result, the true Gospel was lost.

If the church is so important to Him, and if the purity of the Gospel and the doctrinal teachings that stem from understanding it correctly matter so much, why didn’t he step in at such a critical moment to stop the hijacking of the Church? Why would God allow the church to embrace a false gospel that would consign its followers to hell? Why didn’t he intervene? Why didn’t he put a quick end to it? I find these questions a bit troubling.

Of Course Catholics believe that the Reformers are the real usurpers. Who can blame them? After all, the church had existed virtually unchanged for 1500 years, until Luther and the young punk come along and want to change the whole thing. It is understandable that they got together at Trent and called the Reformers heretics.

Here’s the compelling issue for me: In both cases, God did not stop the supposed error from taking root. Make no mistake about it; God knew what the result would be of doing nothing to stop these movements. Because of the omniscient nature of God, combined with His foreknowledge, the ensuing doctrinal mess would not have surprised him. He knew it would happen if He did nothing, and he did…. nothing. Think about that!

We do know that if God wanted to step in and crush the rebellions, he could have. He did that very thing during the Exodus when Korah and his crew openly challenged Moses leadership of the young Israel. Read about it in Numbers 16. The gist of it is that God caused the ground to open up and swallow the leaders of the rebellion, their families and everything they owned! Rebellion over. Case closed. God’s leadership of his people settled.

But that is not what he did in 300AD. That is not what he did when the West and East Split. It is not what he did at the beginning of the Reformation. In all three cases, God allowed it to stand. In all three instances, The Father had the opportunity to answer the Son’s prayer for unity, but chose not to. Even when, in the case of the Reformers, God knew that a Pandora’s Box of doctrinal disunity would surely result if He did not act. Still, he refrained.

This brings me back to my conversation with my friend. Most assuredly, the doctrinal differences we have killed others for matter to us. They are a big deal. But do they matter to God?

Before you get the kindling and light the match to burn me alive at the stake for the heretic that I am, realize that I am not saying that God does not care about the Gospel or the church. That is not what I am saying at all. Actually, I don’t know what to think about all this. This is a conversation I have been having, largely in my own mind, for quite some time. I thought I would put it out there for others to interact with and see how you might approach the topic.

Why do you think God did nothing to stop any of these movements?

Read another thought provoking post on worship:  God Does Not Need Our Worship…We Need It!

Idol Worship: How Your Church May Be Doing It and How To Fix It


American Idolatry_revised“If it feels good, do it!”

This has been one of our favorite slogans since the 1960’s.  It seems that the American church has adopted a similar pragmatic view for church: “If it makes people come to church, we should do it.” Today, church leaders of every persuasion are willing to try anything if it works in drawing more people into their services.  If it “works” then it must be fine and stamped with the  approval of God Himself.

I can hear you now saying “Of course this is true!  Why on earth wouldn’t it be?”

Because it wasn’t!

One of the things that is clear for any to examine is that… Read the rest of this entry

Worship: Why Your Church Is Failing And What You Can Do About It


Failing worship gradeFrom my view in the cheap seats, it seems that what it means to worship God has become open to interpretation.

Can I worship God any way I want to?

Does church leadership have biblical authority to design a worship service anyway they think is best?

Judging by the state of worship in the American Evangelical church, the answer is Yes to both questions. And boy do we ever take this permission seriously!

It would appear  that Read the rest of this entry

Top 10 Reasons You Should Visit Our Church This Sunday


top10Top 10 Reasons You Should Visit Our Church This Sunday

#10 We have the best worship team in town filled with young, uber-talented musicians and singers.

#9 Our worship team recently recorded a cutting edge worship CD (You can buy it for $13).

#8 We have state of the art sound and lighting systems that allow you to hear and feel the worship, as well as experience worship in a way you can’t at other local churches.

#7 Worshipping in song is the best and highest form of corporate worship. We do it with excellence and we do it a lot! If you like music, you are going to love our worship!

#6 Come as you are. You can wear whatever you feel comfortable in. People wear everything from business casual to jeans and T-shirts

#5 We have GREAT coffee drinks (for sale) and you can bring the drinks with you into the auditorium.

#4 We have free wi-fi available throughout our facility and it is available at all times

#3 Our services are short! Each of our 3 services is only 70 minutes long

#2 Our pastor is an incredibly gifted speaker who is VERY funny. Each week you will hear a short inspirational talk based on our pastors life experience  or the experience of others that is always relevant to your life. There is usually a Bible verse or two sprinkled throughout the talk to help inspire you to live your life to the fullest.

#1 Our services are FUN! We have eliminated the old school, boring liturgical stuff from our worship which many of the other churches in town still utilize. We won’t ask you to stand or sit or kneel. There are no corporate readings or corporate prayers or communion. Just cutting edge worship and inspirational words.

What’s missing?

I have compiled these “reasons” from church websites and church advertising in my area. Before you write to correct me, realize that this post is a joke. The sad part about it is that they are real reasons that actual churches have given. Well, I have added my special touch to the reasons. Nevertheless, the gist of them is spot on.

Some will object to the competitive nature of the post. The “Our Church is Better Than the Rest” idea is abhorrent, I agree. However, that idea is rampant in our church advertising. It is sometimes subtle, sometimes over the top, but often present for anyone to see. At least I see it.

Some will see nothing wrong in the Top 10 Reasons I have listed. Others, will be able to spot what is missing easily. Still others, will have to look harder until they see what is missing. Feel free to throw daggers, share thoughts or comment as you see fit!

Thanks for visiting us here at http://www.NotForItchingEars.com

 

They Devoted Themselves to What?


disbelief not for itching earsI’ve never heard of this translation before and I don’t think it is correct. It does seem to accurately reflect the direction of the church in the USA though. Here’s a quote of Acts 2:42-45 from the New Testament For Today’s Christianity.  Check the Greek and you decide. Read the rest of this entry

How To Get More Men into Your Church Service…the Easy Way


bethechurch“Whatever Works!” 

That is the take many younger pastors have on Paul’s “I have become all things to all men…” mission strategy.   Now, we take it to the next level.

It is always a challenge to get men to attend church.  They just don’t want to come.  They see it as a complete waste of their precious time.  Yet, somehow we must reach them. I absolutely believe THAT!  But how to do it?  Perhaps a little creativity is in order.  So, if you don’t mind thinking waaaaay outside the box, or care about church history or any parameters the Scriptures might lay out, try these pragmatic suggestions.  Several studies suggest that this new approach will pack the house. Read the rest of this entry

It’s Official: People Don’t Want to Sing So Much on Sundays


lucy surprise“We sing too much in church!”

Whenever I say this, those who hear me have one of two responses.  The first one is absolute total agreement, usually told to me via a whisper in the ear or a hand written note that self destructs after I have read it.  There can be NO evidence of this solidarity.

The second response is a casual search for matches, wood and rope so I can be burned alive at the stake as a heretic.  OK, so I am exaggerating a little bit about the first response, people don’t actually pass me a note that self destructs, but you get the idea!

If you have spend any amount of time on Not For Itching Ears, then you are aware of our thoughts on corporate worship and the need to reform it.  We thought it would be a good idea to create some polls about various aspects of corporate church life, and see what readers thought.    So, we created several of them.  The results are still coming in, but so far Read the rest of this entry

Is God Really Calling You To Plant a Church?


cross-with-roots3-e1288037811724“Do we really need another one?” I asked with an annoying tone. I must have been bothered by it, because I asked my passenger Dakota her thoughts on the subject. Dakota is my Golden Retriever, and from what I could tell she was all for it, as long as they gave away tennis balls to all visitors.

In my town, it would seem there is a new church starting every couple of weeks. I understand the idea behind planting a new church. It is suppose to be the most effective form of evangelism known to mankind. At least that is what I was told in seminary, and it would seem our young leaders are being indoctrinated with the same idea.  But is it true?

I think the greatest form of evangelism is one on one. More people are still introduced to God and Jesus Christ via interaction with people outside the congregational walls. Period.

Church planting certainly has its place.   Is it possible to over plant the church? Can there be too many churches in a city? If you are considering planting a church where the church already exists in abundance, it would be wise of you to thoughtfully and unselfishly pondered that question.   I think the answer is a resounding YES!  Take a look at Colorado Springs, CO.  Do you think it needs one more evangelical congregation?  The red dots are churches.

Churches in Colorado Springs

Over church planting in a city can cause a stumbling block for evangelism.  So many different churches can lead non-christians to believe that even Christians can’t figure this stuff  about ultimate issues out.    I can imagine the questions that arise in the mind of the non-Christians: “Why are there so many churches if the claims of Christianity are true?  Isn’t the fact that there are so many different churches PROOF that Christianity is false? Why are they starting another one?  Why do they all believe different things?  If they can’t agree on what the truth is, maybe they are all just a bunch of misguided, well-meaning people who I should not take seriously.”

We won’t even talk about how one more church plant will dilute the scarce resources of leaders, servants, and dinero.

I applaud you for wanting to step out in faith and make a real difference in people’s lives.  Still, I want to issue a challenge to if you are thinking about planting a church.   If God is calling you to a particular area that is church saturated, perhaps it is NOT to plant your own church.  Perhaps you are being called  to come alongside someone else. Here’s an idea:  If God has called you to come to a city where there are hundreds of churches, why not find a job like Paul did and the rest of us do.  Why not volunteer to help another local church like the rest of us?  Why start something new?

Be honest with yourself, isn’t what you are thinking about starting exactly the same thing as the last 35 guys who came here to start something?  Does God really need 36 congregations that are essentially the same thing?   Perhaps it would honor God more and make a bigger impact on the community if you went and helpedp the last guy God sent here.  They don’t have enough money to pay you, but they need your help.  Just a thought.

Want to be challenged more or get more upset?  Read our post “Would The Apostle Paul Plant a Seeker-Sensitive Purpose Driven Church?

Check out the result of 4 different polls and the challenging conclusions arrived at in our post It’s Official: People Don’t Want To Sing So Much On Sundays.

Does God Care More About Our Character OR What We Do In His Name?


I'm Right and You're WrongIt is a simple question, really…

In your opinion, is God most concerned with character or accomplishments in our lives? In other words, does He care more about the great things we accomplish (or don’t) in his name and for his kingdom OR who we ARE or BECOMING as his followers. In this poll, you can’t say “both” because the question is which one does he car MOST about?

Why Christians Should Let Non-Christians Off The Moral Hook


I'm Right and You're WrongI feel like I need to get something off my chest.   It bothers me that Christians continually express shock, disapproval and judgment at the way non-Christians live.

You’ve seen it, and maybe even done it:

Doesn’t anyone believe in marriage anymore?

I can’t get over how many people today smoke weed.

Can you believe they just sleep in instead of coming to church?

Did you hear they moved in together? That’s so bad!

What’s wrong with our government? Why don’t they uphold biblical values?

Whenever I hear that, I  feel like saying “Do you seriously expect non-Christians to behave like Christians?”

This article was not written by us over here at NotForItchingEars.com.  I found it over at www.Careynieuwhof.com.  You can read the article on Carey’s site here:  http://careynieuwhof.com/2013/02/why-christians-should-let-non-christians-off-the-moral-hook/  I think he makes some great points in this article, and I thought it was worth reposting.  So here it is:

Think it through.

Most people in the West no longer consider themselves Christian.

Or even if they use the term “Christian” to describe themselves, few believe in the authority of scripture or profess a personal faith in Jesus Christ.

So why would we expect them to behave like Christians? Why would we expect people who don’t profess to be Christians to:

Wait until marriage to have sex?

Clean up their language?

Be celibate when they’re attracted to people of the same sex?

Pass laws like the entire nation was Christian?

Seriously? Why?

They’re not pretending to be Christians. Why would they adopt Christian values or morals?

Please don’t get me wrong.

I’m a pastor. I completely believe that the Jesus is not only the Way, but that God’s way is the best way.

When you follow biblical teachings about how to live life, your life simply goes better. It just does. I 100% agree.

I do everything I personally can to align my life with the teachings of scripture, and I’m passionate about helping every follower of Christ do the same.

But what’s the logic behind judging people who don’t follow Jesus for behaving like people who don’t follow Jesus?

Why would you hold the world to the same standard you hold the church?

Before you judge a non-Christian for behaving like a non-Christian, think about this:

1. They act more consistently with their value system than you do. It’s difficult for a non-Christian to be a hypocrite, because they tend to live out what they believe. Chances are they are better at living out their values than you or I are. Jesus never blamed pagans for acting like pagans. But he did speak out against religious people for acting hypocritically.

2. Your disapproval is destroying the relationship (if you have even have a relationship in the first place). Some of the most judgmental Christians have zero non-Christians friends. Is that a surprise, really? I mean, on a human level, how many people have you made time for this week that you know disapprove of who you are and the way you live? Exactly.

3. Judgment is a terrible evangelism strategy. People don’t line up to be judged. If you want to keep being ineffective at reaching unchurched people, keep judging them.

4. Judging outsiders is unChristian. Paul told us to stop judging people outside the church. Jesus said God will judge us by the same standard with which we judge others. Paul also reminds us to drop the uppity-attitude; that none of us were saved by the good we did but by grace.

So what can you do?

1. Stop judging non-Christians. Start loving them. Very few people have been judged into life-change. Many have been loved into it.

2. Empathize with non-Christians. Ask yourself, “If I wasn’t a Christian, what would I be doing?” Chances are you might be doing exactly what the non Christians in your neighbourhood are doing. Understanding that and empathizing with that completely changes how you see people. And they can tell how you see them.

3. Hang out with non-Christians. Jesus did. And caught plenty of disapproval for it. I have a friend who continually drops f-bombs in my presence. As much as it bothers me, I never correct him (he’s not a kid, he’s my peer). But I do pray for him every day and we talk about my faith. I pray I see the day when he’s baptized.

4. Pray for unchurched people. It is impossible to remain enemies with someone you genuinely pray for daily.

5. Live out your faith authentically. Your actions carry weight. Humility is far more attractive than pride. When a non-Christian sees integrity, it’s compelling.

I just have a feeling if we in the church loved the world the way Jesus did, the world might come running to Christ.

And, then, the change we long to see might actually begin to happen.

Visit Carey’s site for more of his take on Church life and Christianity:  http://careynieuwhof.com/