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The 21st Century Church…is it worth it to change?

I’ve read a lot of articles lately on why my generation, the millennials, are leaving the Church in droves.  Some of the articles are good and some leave me saying, “Clearly you are not a millennial, sir.”  They say similar things such as millennials are more interested in social justice and less in spending money on church programs, millennials don’t respect structure, millennials think that having coffee shops in churches are pointless, the church is not the center of the American social system anymore, and we want to be known for what we are for instead of what we are against (what does that even mean?).

I’m a millennial and Seth, being 3.5 years older than me, limped into the millennial generation with one foot still in Generation X.  We both grew up in pretty traditional Christian families and our upbringing has had a profound impact on who we are today.  So, when it comes to the Church, we both respect the traditions that we grew up with while recognizing that there is a need for change.

Fifteen years ago the American Church saw the same thing.  Their answer was to make it acceptable for pastors to wear jeans), have contemporary and traditional services, institute missions programs that were focused on social justice, hand us a latte as we walked into services, and do the whole “it’s cool for Christians to swear and say other shocking things” thing.   I don’t have a problem with any one of those things (except for the swearing thing.  seriously, people, aren’t we called to more?) per se, because I believe that those changes were well-intentioned to reach out to people (or shock people, depending on how you feel).

I believe that the Church in every generation needs to take a serious look at their programs and institutions, and this generation is no different.  The Word of God is enduring, truthful, and is as applicable to us today in the 21st century as it was when it was first breathed into existence by God thousands of years ago.  God and His Word do not need to change.  Our man-made programs and methodology?  They need some consideration.

As a millennial I have been advertised to my entire life, so I know when people are trying to be cool and faking their interest in me.  And if I know, chances are all my friends know, too.  No one likes to go to church and have a specific brand thrust in her face.  And yet, I don’t necessarily think that the “hipster Christianity” that so many people my age have turned to is the ultimate answer either.  What happens when it’s not cool to be hipster anymore?  When the next thing comes along?  When what worked so well even a year ago does not work today?  Our culture is changing so rapidly that it’s almost impossible to keep up with.  By the time a church takes the time to implement a new program, it’s already outdated.  How can anyone possibly be expected to keep up with the trends when they change so fast?

This is not an indictment of the church as an institution.  Like many of you, I’ve had experiences with churches that are both hurtful and wonderful.  It’s an institution made up of imperfect people, but as Christians we are a part of the Church.

This isn’t a “how to” article because I don’t believe there is a simple answer to the semantics aspect of it.  I can tell you that we need to focus on Jesus and what He actually called us to do as His bride here on earth, but I think most of us already know that.  I would also say that if you want to know why millennials are leaving the Church, you should ask us.

What I think we need to ask, instead, is if change is worth it?  Is it worth it to let go of non-Biblical traditions that we’ve been holding on to for so long for the sake of meeting people where they are today?  Is it worth it to release our right to be right about what’s important to spend money on at our churches?  Is it worth it to take an honest look at what works at our church (there are many beautiful programs at churches that work so well!) and what doesn’t?

I believe it is.

“The Church exists for nothing else but to draw men into Christ, to make them little Christs. If they are not doing that, all the cathedrals, clergy, missions, sermons, even the Bible itself, are simply a waste of time. God became Man for no other purpose.” –C. S. Lewis

Summer Readin’

book meme

In the summer I go into sponge mode.  By “sponge mode” I mean that I take the time to inhale every single book, Bible study, dance class, and learning experience that I can get my hands on.  Owning a business that is also a ministry is an amazing thing that I love, but it also means that I give everything of myself and don’t take as much time to be poured into as I should.  In order to be able to effectively pour into my students, I need to also get poured into.  It doesn’t always happen throughout the school year, so I make sure it happens in the summer.

Here’s a glimpse of what I dove into this summer…

Rhinestone Jesus by Kristen Welch :  Kristen is the author of We Are THAT Family Blog and the founder of Mercy House Kenya, an organization that rescues pregnant women off the street in Kenya by offering them a place to live, education, and spiritual training.  It’s an organization that I love, and this book tells her story.

For Such a Time by Kate Breslin:  A wonderful novel, set in the time of Nazi-occupied Czech.  It is a modern-day story of Esther and it kept me interested and excited until the very last chapter!

Love’s Awakening by Laura Frantz:  Novel #2 in The Ballantyne Legacy focused on the next generation of Ballantyne’s as they forged a life in the post-Revolution west.  I loved how it talked about the Abolitionist movement in the early 1800s, and I was challenged by the honor and sacrifice displayed by those who fought for what was right.

Dancing Through It by Jenifer Ringer:  LOVED these memoirs of former NYCB principal dancer, Jenifer Ringer.  It is a detailed, interesting book that shows how Jenifer–a Christian–navigated the murky, dark waters of a professional ballet career.  If you recall, she was the dancer who a reviewer from the New York Times called obese, but this book shares how she overcame all her body image issues to truly shine.  GREAT read.

Bridge to Haven by Francine Rivers:  Francine Rivers ALWAYS delivers.  I try to re-read the Mark of the Lion series every year or so because I wish I could read it again for the first time (you know those kinds of books).  Her new book Bridge to Haven is a fantastic read based on the book of Ezekiel and set in the 1950s.

In the Field of Grace by Tessa Afshar:  Anytime I am looking to read some Biblical fiction, I always look to Tessa Afshar.  Her latest book is about Ruth and Boaz, and it’s told in a beautiful, heartwarming way that makes the beautiful, familiar story new to the reader again.

When You Need a Miracle by Linda Evans Shepherd:  I had the opportunity to sit under Linda’s teaching at a conference a few weeks ago, and she is the real deal!  She is gracious and authentic and a true reminder that ministry can happen wherever you are.  This book isn’t a magic formula about praying for a miracle, it’s about drawing closer to God’s heart so that you can be open to His response to you.

Wherever the River Runs: How a Forgotten People Renewed My Hope in the Gospel by Kelly Minter: I just love Kelly Minter’s studies.  I have participated in many and led a couple women’s studies for groups over the years and find her to be very authentic and candid.   She does a great deal of ministry to the people of the Amazon, and this book is that story!

Grace for the Good Girl by Emily Freeman:  Can you see a pattern in my reading this summer?  I was in sore need of encouragement to relinquish my perfectionist ways and receive the grace that the Lord has given me to be imperfect, but wholeheartedly seeking Him.  I have no trouble extending grace to others, but I have a hard time giving it to myself.  This book was a really great read, and there are questions in the back if you want to do it as a small group!

What did you read this summer?

Those Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days of Summer

Wow, this summer has just flown by!  It’s hard to believe that next Saturday August 23 is the opening day of Reverence’s 7th season, and the start of the new school year.  Summer is a great rhythm change for me and the studio.  We have six weeks of camps and our intensive, we hustle to get the recital DVD out to all those who ordered (this was the first year we had decided to mail them and it worked out pretty well in the mailhouse o’ Kirsten), I have one-on-one meetings with the studio staff, I lesson plan, and a whole crew of people helps me get the studio cleaned, painted, and ready to reopen for the fall.  It keeps us busy, but like I said, it’s a rhythm change that I’ve come to value over the years.Neshema at Reverence 5

Reverence was honored to be the Reader’s Choice Award Winner for Best Dance Studio for the second year in a row!  Only by the grace and goodness of God is that even possible.  My two theme verses for Reverence from the very beginning have been Mark 10:27 and 2 Corinthians 12:9.  Only God can use imperfect-walking-in-grace people such as myself.  If I were operating in my own strength, Reverence would not exist.

Readers Choice

 

One of my longtime dear friends Angela is getting married on September 6, and I have the honor of being a bridesmaid in her wedding.  We’ve had lots of fun wedding stuff to do this summer…a bridal shower, a bachelorette party, and lots of wedding crafting.  Angela and I have known each other since we were in high school, and we’ve encouraged each other through many of life’s ups and downs.  Just for kicks and giggles, here is a picture of the two of us at my wedding almost five years ago!

dweezil and kirsten

Seth and I have been enjoying extra time together this summer.  We love to laugh and go on adventures…whether five minutes or thousands of miles away!  We enjoyed a big adventure at the beginning of the summer, and lots of small ones ever since!

IMG_2432

seth and me alaska

I love to have people over, and this summer has been amazing for that.  I think we’ve had a group of friends over at least once a week throughout the summer.  It’s been a blast!  We’ve also had a bajillion parties and weddings and big celebrations to attend this summer, and it’s been AWESOME to celebrate with all of our friends.

Prince Caspian has been enjoying his typical daily routine of impressing our guests, sleeping, and eating.  I put together a picture of Prince Caspian the parlor panther in his typical gargoyle pose with an actual panther for your amusement…

Prince Caspian and panther

It’s been a really great summer, for which I am so thankful!  You may or may not have noticed that I’ve been on a bloggy hiatus while I’ve been doing some other writing projects and taking a rest this summer, but I’ll be returning for more regular posts very soon!

30 Years of…

I turn 30 years old tomorrow.  It’s one of the big ones, right?  :)  Another decade behind me while another stretches out before me.  Halfway to 60 and one-third to 90 (haha).  I started reflecting on the past ten years of my life…from college student to business owner and everything in between, and realized that I have learned much.  Annnnnnnnnnnnd…I have much left to learn.

So, in no particular order, some serious and some silly…

30 Things I Learned in my 20′s

1.  Always follow the Lord, even when other people don’t understand or tell you to do the exact opposite.  You shouldn’t let other people dictate your days and, therefore, your life.

2.  You can throw your husband’s sneakers like tomahawks to kill centipedes and spiders when he’s not at home.  Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.  Always be prepared with your cat and a vacuum cleaner just in case (in my case, the vacuum cleaner is way faster than the cat).

3.  It’s okay to know every single song in every single Disney movie and to randomly sing them.

4.  I really do have to use algebra in the real world.  I’m not telling my high school algebra teacher that…even though he goes to my church.  You know, keeping him humble and all… ;)

5.  Falling does not equal failing.

6.  Spontaneous dance parties are the BEST.  At home, on the side walk, at the studio, in a box, with a fox…

7.  I never get tired of watching “Gilmore Girls” on my –ahem– entire collection of DVDs.  And yes, I understand that one day my children will ask me, “What’s a DVD, Mom?”

8.  I can’t follow a leader who I don’t respect, so I need to be the kind of leader who other people respect enough to get behind.  I’ve learned from watching others that the best leaders have humility, integrity, servants’ hearts, listening ears, and authentic behavior.  The best leaders are with the people…not far-removed or “above” the people.

9.  People you can be yourself with are rare, treasured gifts.

10.  My grandparents are, perhaps, the wisest and most godly people I know.  I strive to emulate their prayer life and humility.

11.  Every day can be an adventure…whether you are at home or a thousand miles from home.  Adventure is a state of heart attitude.

12.  Writing a thoughtful note to a person “just because” is a sweet gift to them!

13.  If you want to have good friends, you have to BE a good friend first.

14-21.  “People are unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered. Love them anyway. If you do good, people may accuse you of selfish motives. Do good anyway. If you are successful, you may win false friends and true enemies. Succeed anyway. The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway. Honesty and transparency make you vulnerable. Be honest and transparent anyway. What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight. Build anyway. People who really want help may attack you if you help them. Help them anyway. Give the world the best you have and you may get hurt. Give the world your best anyway.” -Mother Theresa

22.  It’s okay and exemplified by God to take a rest.  You are at your best when you take time to rest!

23.  God delights in doing the impossible.

24.  God ALWAYS keeps His promises.

25.  Marriage is truly a partnership.  It’s not one of us against the other…it’s both of us, together with God, facing the world.

26. Owning my own business is truly the most rewarding and challenging thing I have ever EVER done.  It is so worth it!

27.  It’s important to recognize the times that I need to stand up for myself and the times that I need to let God fight for me.  Looking back over these past ten years, the things that were so scary to me at the time are not so scary anymore.

28. We judge each other based on our actions.  We judge ourselves based on our intent.  I didn’t make that up…I feel like it was a quote that I read, but a good one!

29.  Starting off my day by spending a lengthy time in God’s Word, working out, and with my fella (and the Fur Child) keeps me sane and grounded.  I’ve been training myself not to even turn on my phone or look at my computer until after I’ve done all of those things.

30.  We make the whole “living life” process hard, but God simplifies it in His Word: “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.  And what does the Lord require of you?  To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humblywith your God.” -Micah 6:8

I can’t wait to see what the Lord will do in my thirties!  To all who have invested in me and imparted your wisdom to me, thank you.  :)

#raisingawareness

I’ve come to dislike the phrase “raising awareness” over the past few months, putting it right down there on my list with things such as using the word ”tolerance” to mean “your beliefs are cool as long as you agree with the popular opinion at this time and are not a conservative Christian” and “just saying” at the end of a slur because you think it softens the blow of your meanness.  Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s great to raise awareness for causes that are near and dear to our hearts.  Seth and I have been a part of many projects to raise awareness in the past, and I know we will continue to do so in the future.  If “raising awareness” means educating people on the evils and injustices of our world and how they can stop them, then I am all for it.  If it means educating people on how to love and treat others better, then I am all for it.  But, I have come to realize that many times it means something completely different.

I’ve never been a fan of talking for attention or making myself look good because of all the “good things that I do to save the world.”  I feel that personal integrity and a genuine desire to change the world for the good trump my need for people to know that I’m concerned and working to change injustices.  I will ALWAYS speak up for what I believe is right (and social media can be a good place to speak up), but I always ask the Lord before posting if this is going to bring glory to Him and change things or if it’s just going to bring attention to me.  It’s a fine line, and I’m certainly not perfect at walking it.

What really made me dislike the phrase “raising awareness” was a book that I read on the Pennsylvania anti-slavery movement of the early 1800s.  What many people do not realize is that Pennsylvania was a slave state until the 1840′s (especially west of the Susquehanna River).  And yet, all escaped slaves east of the Appalachians HAD to cross through Pennsylvania to escape to freedom, so the views held by Pennsylvanians of the day and the laws that were in place were very important.  Quakers and other courageous men and women motivated by the desire to serve the Lord and their belief of freedom, helped many slaves escape via the Underground Railroad at the risk of their very lives.  The anti-abolitionist groups would seize their property and businesses by deceit and many of these courageous folks were even killed for doing what they believed to be right.  THAT is sacrifice.

Here’s what really got me:  The Underground Railroad (specifically in Pennsylvania) was so secretive that even today, in 2014, we don’t know nearly as much about it as we do in other states.  Many of the people who were conductors of the Underground Railroad in Pennsylvania went to their graves keeping their sacrifices a secret.

Would we do that today?  Or would we Facebook, “Led a group of slaves to freedom last night. #slaverysucks ” to see how many likes we could get on our status?

ANYONE can sit in the safety of their home or behind the shield of their computer screen and write that they hate human trafficking or abortion or world hunger.  But the people who were the conductors of the Underground Railroad, the people who hid Jews during Hitler’s reign of terror, and many people who fight injustice today cannot even speak about what they do and where they are because there are lives at risk.

I believe it begs an honest assessment of our hearts: are we “raising awareness” to stand for a worthy cause, or are we simply “raising awareness” of ourselves and how awesome/caring/concerned we are?

And, if you are a Christ-follower like I am, there is an even deeper question to ask yourself:  are you serving and doing good because it makes you look good and saintlike in public, or are you serving and doing good because it’s what Christ commands you to do?

Highlights o’ my Break

Today is my first official day back to work at the studio after a much-needed three week break.  It’s been an amazing break that I am deeply thankful for.  Many people don’t know that, for the first five years of me opening and running Reverence, I worked an additional full-time job.  That job was a huge blessing to me as a single person who owned a business and then Seth and I as we navigated the roller coaster ride of owning a business as a married couple, and I am really grateful for the Lord’s provision of it.  Because I had responsibilities at my other job, I was not always able to take off many days during the times that the studio was closed on a break, so I have really enjoyed being able to take off an entire three weeks last year and this year.

What did I do over my break?  I’ll sum it up in one delicious word: unhurried.

I spent lots of unhurried time with the Lord…
I spent lots of unhurried time with Seth…
I spent lots of unhurried time with my family and friends…
I spent lots of unhurried time outside…
I spent lots of unhurried time playing with Prince Caspian…
I spent lots of unhurried time reading, journaling, and watching movies (the kids at the studio were peer-pressuring me–haha–to watch all the Tinkerbelle movies, so I unashamedly did.  they were adorable)…
I spent lots of unhurried time sleeping (those who know me well know that I wake up between 5:30-6AM each day, and my “sleeping in” is considered to be 7:30 or 8AM.  You will be pleasantly surprised to learn that there were several days where I slept in until 10AM!)

This is one of Seth's favorite pictures that he took of me, determining which way I would get to the gold in Skagway, Alaska.  It's hard to wrap my mind around, but gold fever is very much alive and active in Alaska today!

This is one of Seth’s favorite pictures that he took of me, pretending to determine which way I would get to the rumors of gold in the Yukon. It’s hard to wrap my mind around, but gold fever is very much alive and active in Alaska today!

You might also know that Seth and I went on a little adventure to Washington, Alaska, and Canada during this time as well.  These past few years have been pretty crazy-full, so we decided to take some time off during the studio’s off season this year and do some exploring of the beautiful Pacific Northwest.  We’ve been wanting to go for quite some time, so we decided to save our pennies and just do it.  It was BEAUTIFUL.

This is one of my favorite pictures of Seth.  Ever.  We took it at the EMP Museum of Seattle in the sci-fi section.  Hilarious!

This is one of my favorite pictures of Seth. Ever. We took it at the EMP Museum of Seattle in the sci-fi section. Hilarious!

It was an amazing trip for many reasons, but it was really GREAT to be with Seth for 12 uninterrupted days.  It was really GREAT to be outside in nature and put all those things that have been clouding the periphery of my vision for the past few months behind me.  I had some GREAT times with the Lord–just praising and worshipping Him.  Seth and I sought the Lord together for our future, Reverence Studios, and more.  I came back with clarity on some changes that I need to make in my life and some boundaries that I need to put in place again.

Great trip.  Deeply blessed.  Great break.  Deeply blessed.  Ready to be back to work, but I said goodbye to the old workaholic, people-pleasing Kirsten who felt like she had to work 120 hours a week and justify every decision to every single person.  And you know what?  It feels good.  I’m still going to be the hard-working, determined, and compassionate person who God created me to be, but I’m turning 30 next week and it’s time to make some changes and leave the bad stuff behind.

Also.  I saw a humpback whale’s tongue up close.

At Mount Rainier National Park.

At Mount Rainier National Park.

We fell in love with Alaska.  I've never really said that the "air has agreed with me" in all the wonderful, amazing places I've been privileged to visit.  But it did here.  Alaska, we have a feeling we haven't seen the last of you.  :)

We fell in love with Alaska. I’ve never really said that the “air has agreed with me” in all the wonderful, amazing places I’ve been privileged to visit. But it did here. Alaska, we have a feeling we haven’t seen the last of you. :)

 

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