When Security Masks a Spirit of Fear

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in God I trust; I shall not be afraid.

What can man do to me? – Psalm 56:11 (ESV)

Another week goes by, we hear another story of a gunman invading a space and taking innocent lives. Calls for gun control quickly ring out in the media. Feelings of justice, fueled by anger and pain, trigger that deep down knowing that the world should not be this way. That we were not meant to deal with nor experience death, separation, brought on by a single choice made back in the beginning.

The Psalmist tells us in Psalm 56:11 that we should put our trust in God. There is no reason to fear when we put our trust in the Creator. Right? And yet fear percolates and permeates the atmosphere we breathe. Even in our churches, where Safety Teams equal Security Squads, fear rages. Played out with armed church members, unofficially, watching over the flock while services take place. A new defensive cultural norm.

NOTE: Please, do not misconstrue my words here, I’m all for keeping the Church safe. But I’m not okay when the spirit of fear drives a weekly version of security theater.

Photo by Bernard Hermant on Unsplash

Keeping silent. Toeing the party line. Those seem like the obvious responses. But I believe God calls us, as Christians, to more: Power, love, and self-discipline (2 Timothy 1:7).

What do you do when a spirit of fear infects a church?

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Becoming a Welcoming Church

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Over the past year and a half, my church has been in the process of evaluating guest experience. A process that has brought about:

  • A multilayered greeter ministry
  • Clear campus-wide wayfinding signage
  • Rebranding/refreshing of both the church logo and website
  • As well as a bunch of other small adjustments (ease of giving, etc.)

I recently came across Thom S. Rainer’s Becoming a Welcoming Church due to a clever video I saw on Facebook.

Becoming a Welcoming Church is a short book (6 chapters) that focuses on the church’s Biblical mandate towards hospitality.

Always be eager to practice hospitality. – Romans 12:13b

What I loved about Becoming a Welcoming Church, is Thom’s laid-back writing style. He lazer focuses on issues he has come across and offers helpful solutions on:

  • Church Signage
  • Church Safety
  • Being a Clean Church (literally)
  • Greeters
  • Welcome Centers

Thom also repeatedly hammers down on the need for accurate and updated information on the church web site, which he calls the front door of the church.

I loved how Thom talks about the importance of having a doctrinal statement on the church web site (this was a conversation I had with my church when refreshing the site):

Lack of clarity about beliefs or doctrine. Not all guests will check this important item, but many will. Churches should not hesitate to share with clarity what they believe, particularly their core beliefs. Some of the most effective means to communicate doctrine begin with a simple link on the home page that says: “What We Believe.” Those who choose to view the doctrinal statement can click to a full page of the church’s basic beliefs. You may lose as many as half of your potential guests without this item. (Location 549)

I also appreciated his story on having greeters arrive early:

Arriving too late; leaving too early. Mike became the second greeter at my rural church in southern Indiana. He was blown away I asked him to serve. Our service started at 11:00 a.m. (surprise!), but Mike was always outside ready to greet by 10:30 a.m., even if no one had yet arrived. I told Mike he did not have to be in his greeter role that early. He disagreed. In fact, he kind of chastised me. “Pastor,” he said sternly, “I was serving in this spot when Hank arrived a few months ago. We started a great conversation. He began to feel okay about coming into the church. And you know the rest of the story. Hank got saved a few weeks later.” Mike paused for a moment. The intensity in his expression was strong. “So,” he continued. “If getting here a few minutes early makes a difference in someone’s eternity, I think it’s a small price to pay.” (Location 873)

My quick read of Becoming a Welcoming Church was an excellent reminder of the process my church has been working through. After reading, I can now see a few areas for improvement (web site related) that I hope to remedy. Great book if you are looking to evaluate your church’s guest experience. The “Church Facility Audit” and “Secret Guest Survey”, that are provided in the back of the book, are helpful tools as well.

Surprise – Yakuza 6: The Song of Life

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Came home from the Awana Awards Ceremony at church, last night, and collapsed on the couch. I’m not sure what it is about Wednesday nights, maybe its the going from work directly to church, but I find it exhausting. The worst part is that I’m super tired and wired up after playing with the kids. Enough whining though.

Once things settled down, and I put Wyatt to bed, I collapsed on the couch once more. Firing up the PS4, I aimlessly searched for a game to play. Not sure about you, but I often sit down with the intent to play something and can’t make up my mind. I then end up watching videos on YouTube or some show on Netflix. But last night I noticed a demo I had downloaded awhile back, Yakuza 6: The Song of Life.

The game demo begins with a cold shower of story told through cutscenes (more like a story flood). Eventually, Yakuza 6 led me through a quick fight tutorial followed by another dousing of cutscenes (I’ll be good, I promise!). The whole game, so far, amounting to a crash course in all things yakuza told through superb Japanese voice acting. I was surprised that I had somehow missed this action-adventure series; delighted at finding a new genre at the video game buffet.

From what I played last night, Yakuza 6 follows protagonist Kazuma Kiryu as he attempts to find out what happened to a woman named Haruka. The game features an open world that mixes exploration, conversations, and full blown street brawls into a tasty dish.

I played for over an hour in a tired daze. Drinking in the sights, sounds, and detailed world (complete with vending machines) of Kamurocho.

Yakuza 6: The Song of Life is not what I expected. I had expected to play the game for a few moments and then delete it due to mature content. But instead, I found a thoughtful adventure game mixing story with fighting and cinematic flare.

I’m still not done with the Yakuza 6 demo, but I will be back. Ready to kick some butt and find out what happened to Haruka.

Don’t Pull That!

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For those of you who do not know, I am a games director, at church, for a Bible verse memorization program (Awana) we have. Over two 30 minute sessions, I get to play all sorts of crazy games with the kids.

My Goal: Tire the kids out while having fun.

Last night, our schedule was a bit different. The kids are singing during the worship service on Sunday. Which means they needed time to practice:

  • Song cues
  • Hand motions
  • And becoming acclimated to standing on stage

Due to the practice time, game time was going to be reduced for the evening. The kids were scheduled to head out to the outdoor playground after worship practice. My wife, who runs the Awana program at church, told me I had the night off.

I ended up driving out to church anyways. Figured I could help corral kids and be there just in case it rained (we had a 40% chance) to run game time.

All was going well, I arrived early and ate dinner with Tabitha. We were sitting there talking when the fire alarm suddenly went off. A prerecorded voice told us that there was an emergency and that we needed to evacuate the building.

Turns out, a little kid pulled the fire alarm that is conveniently located on the indoor kids playground; the fire alarm that is right at kid height. With strobe lights going off in tandem with the alarm, I found myself Googling how to shut off a pull alarm. Turns out you need a special key.

In the midst of all of this, my pastor, who was supposed to be teaching, was having to deal with the alarm company. I ended up taking over for him in talking to the alarm company so that he could return to teaching. The gentleman on the phone guided me to a closet, where the fire alarm’s central panel was located. There I found two wires that were not connected to the battery that powers the fire alarm system. The alarm company told me that in the process of the system trying to reboot, that it tried to reboot/use power from the battery, somehow unplugging the wires. Plugging the wires back into the battery, I restored the system, and thus saved Jurassic Park.

Did I mention that the volunteer fire department sent a member over to check on things? Apparently he lives across the street. He was telling dispatch that he didn’t see any smoke coming from the church and that there were lots of cars in the parking lot. I’m thankful that he came over to check things out… and cancel the fire trucks that were about to be dispatched.

Once the alarm was shut off, I walked into the Worship Center to listen to the kids sing. On the way over, I noted that it was now raining outside. Great.

We ended up having a shortened game time. Lots of running around and screaming inside our kids worship area. It was crazy but helped the kids burn off energy as the barometer fell.

I’m thankful that none of this happened on a Sunday morning. While the lighting effects from the strobes might have been cool, the overall alarm would have killed the worship vibe.

From Across the Net: “Will the Church Value Video Games in 2017?”

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Over at Christ and Pop Culture, Steven Miller writes:

One interesting complaint, however, was that the game withholds some power from the player. The Last Guardian revolves around a relationship between young boy and a giant bird-dog creature. The player controls the boy—the bird-dog is controlled by AI…an AI which acts remarkably like a finicky pet would. Both parts are necessary to solve many of the puzzles. If the player, as the boy, has solved how to get from point A to point B, but the bird-dog is busy munching on a snack or laying in the sunlight, the boy is stuck. This is, from the point of the typical reviewer, “bad game design”: the game withholds rewards from the player arbitrarily.

Please make sure to keep going with this piece. I love his thoughts on patience.

How many kids do you have?

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Walking from small group to the worship service on Sunday, I bumped into a fellow church member. We somehow got onto the topic of kids.
 
“So how many kids do you have?”
 
“One.”
 
“One for now, huh?”
 
“Yeah. One for now. We’ve been trying for the past five years though.”
 
“Well, you could have a surprise later in life, like your mother and father-in-law did.”
 
I am learning to be honest during simple conversations like these. Not to garner sympathy or even empathy but in an attempt to talk about the path God has my wife and I on. 
dorin-vancea-83926
The feelings that infertility brings out feel selfish at times. Even gross. I’m learning to communicate those thoughts and feelings out loud. Even if only with my wife.
 
Staying silent is frustrating.
 
Staying silent kills.