Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Preaching to the Eyes

The Lindisfarne Gospels, a 1,300-year-old manuscript, is revered to this day as the oldest surviving English version of the Gospels. Lindisfarne is a small island just off the Northumberland coast of England. It is often referred to as Holy Island.

Its pages reveal curvy, embellished letters, strange creatures, and spiraling symbols of exquisite precision and beauty. Its artwork and symbols helped convey its message to those who could not read. Professor Richard Gameson from Durham University sees it as a precursor to modern multimedia because it was designed to be a visual, sensual and artistic experience for its audience. 

There are many strategies needed for the church to have an open "front door" – to help those who were previously unchurched to come, and feel not only welcomed but to feel connected. In reaching the culture today it is clear that the church needs to be focused on a key element of this: be visual.

Scholars point to many striking parallels between our day and that of the Middle Ages. But if we are entering a new era that is similar to the earlier medieval era, what does that mean? If we are following the medieval pattern – and I believe that in many ways we are – there will be at least five dynamics:
  1. widespread spiritual illiteracy
  2. indiscriminate spiritual openness
  3. deep need for visual communication
  4. attraction to spiritual experience
  5. widespread belief that "truth" is relative
These parallels have moved many to regard our Western society as neomedieval.  But it is the emphasis on the visual that churches today neglect to their peril. Over the last twenty years, we have decisively moved to a visually based world. The most formative influences are not books, theater, or even music.
They are films. Throw in videos and the rise of YouTube, and you have the essence of a cultural revolution – not to mention something of a return to the medieval. For example, during the Middle Ages, there was widespread spiritual illiteracy, as well as actual illiteracy. People couldn't read. This is why pilgrimages mattered so much to the pilgrims. Beyond the relics and holy places they thought might bestow grace, usually the cathedrals they visited held relics that told the story of faith through a medium they could understand: stained glass, pictures.

So while people couldn't, or didn't, read, they couldn't help but see, and from seeing, understand.
It's no different today. We are spiritually illiterate and are visually oriented and visually informed. Only now, instead of stained glass, we have film. At St. Mark, there is very little we don't try to convey visually, whether it's a song during worship or a point during a message.  It is the very reason a director of digital engagement will be hired in the future.  It's easy to see!   Using the visual is simply how people best receive information and meaning, content and context. And because its part of the visual age, it has a way of sneaking past the defenses of the heart.

Adapted from James Emery White, The Rise of the Nones: Understanding and Reaching the Religiously Unaffiliated (Baker). Click here to order this resource from Amazon.
Flavia Di Consiglio, "Lindisfarne Gospels: Why is this book so special?" BBC Religion and Ethics, March 20, 2013, read online.
Umberto Eco, Travels in Hyper Reality: Essays, trans. William Weaver (San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1986), p. 73.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

God Is Blessing our New 10am Service at our Green Bay Site!

"Let everything that has breath praise the LORD" 
(Psalm 150:6).

September 13, 2015 will go down in history at St. Mark as the day we launched a video venue worship service!  If you missed it, join us this coming Sunday, 10am at 1167 Kenwood St, Green Bay.

None of this would be possible without God's guidance, power and grace.  He deserves to be praised!  He deserves the praise for bringing 164 people to our new service, 3 new families and 17 children to our Children's Church at the new venue!

This coming Sunday, September 20, we will be grilling out and tailgating after the service to offer additional opportunities to hang out with our unchurched neighbors.  Invite a friend or family member who hasn't been coming to church in a while.  Talk to your neighbor next door and bring them along.  This may be the opportunity to bring them closer to Jesus!

As always, keep this opportunity in your prayers.  Thank you for your support.  If you would like to know more or volunteer for this special opportunity, contact Pastor Chris at

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Two FALL Truths

As the colorful season of Fall fast approaches with its yellow school buses, it’s kaleidoscope of colors and with its worship of large men in pads running in the grass; I thought it would be good to highlight a few truths.

Truth #1St. Mark is filled with people who care about lost people.
In the past several months I have seen people give up their favorite seats in the worship area so that visitors or new people can sit and learn about Christ. I have witnessed people be more generous to ministries they have never visited than ever before. I have seen more and more people for the first time bring their friends to worship services. This truly is a place that cares about the lost and wants people to meet Jesus!

Truth #2We are offering more communication avenues.

We are currently offering a monthly calendar, a website, an app, the FIVE2 pre-service announcements, the events flyer and a weekly bulletin.  This Fall we will be offering the addition of a quarterly activity guide and a “announcement highlight” in the worship service itself.  All of the previously mentioned communication avenues will cost a fraction of our weekly bulletin -- which will be retired around October 1st.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Find Strength in... Meekness?

One of the many qualities our culture encourages young people to develop is strength. Physically, academically, and socially, teenagers are urged to try to come out on top. Those who seem too meek or gentle are viewed as pushovers and told to stand up for themselves.

Yet the Bible has a different message about strength—not only about how to show it but also where to find it. Psalm 73:26 (NIV) says, “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” Jesus spoke often about the blessings of gentleness and servanthood. In fact, Jesus himself “did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45, NIV).

In our noisy, “me-first” world, meek people display peace, calmness, and caring. They don’t have an overinflated view of themselves but instead rely on God’s grace. In Live Large. Be Different. Shine Bright. (Simply Youth Ministry), Doug Fields and Joshua Griffin write that meek people are slow to speak, put other people first, and serve in small and large ways. Yet meekness shouldn’t be equated with weakness, they write. Instead, meek people accept their status before God and “realize that the beautiful, sensitive, humble quality of meekness comes from knowing that God has the power and love to make you his new creation.”

As Jesus' new creation, he will work through you to do great things for His glory.