sunday school

Careful With the Bible Drills

Worn Bible, via

Worn Bible, via

Confession: I cannot say the books of the Bible in order. Sometimes I still feel embarrassed when I have to flip around a little bit to find a certain book or, even worse, use the table of contents. It seems like I was supposed to learn this Christianity-defining skill at some point in my upbringing (preferably to the tune of a cutesy song or chant), but I never did. I am 28 years old, a teacher, and have a master’s degree, yet beyond the first few books after Genesis and “Great Electric Power Company” (Galatians-Ephesians-Philippians-Colossians), I get mixed up.

The realization that the order of the books does not particularly matter, then, comes with a bit of relief and freedom. In the Protestant canon, the Old Testament books are arranged by category (law, history, poetry, major prophets, minor prophets). The New Testament books are similarly arranged by type (Gospels, history, Paul’s letters, general letters, and prophecy). The Great Electric Power Company and friends — I mean, Paul’s letters — are actually arranged by length!

Certainly, there are reasons for knowing the order of the books in the Old and New Testament. It is simply more efficient to know exactly where to find a book. Knowing the names of all of the books does give you a general familiarity with our sacred text. These reasons, however, are functional, not crucial to one’s faith or salvation.

Music for Small and Tall

Bryan Moyer leading children in song

Bryan Moyer leading children in song

This year, as we start Sunday School and churches come back from summer schedule, I want to introduce you to one of my favorite singer/songwriters, Bryan Moyer Suderman. It’s rare that you find music that appeals to all ages with a strong social justice focus, healthy theology, inclusive language, environmental concern, and really good musicianship. 

As Brian McLaren and Dave Csinos wrote in the intro to Bryan’s new CD:

Bryan takes up the challenge of uniting the old and the young, the tall and the small, with songs of faith that echo the depth, beauty, struggle, complexity, and unconventionality of walking in the way of Jesus.

Bryan is a minstrel, a prophet, a visionary, and a follower of Jesus who invites listeners of all ages to join him in “infiltrating the world with the love of God.” His music is captivating, his lyrics are theologically-rich and thought-provoking, and his voice invites us all to live God’s kingdom wherever we are. 

We Are Family! (Get Up Everybody and Sing!)

218097_19360164080_551149080_224360_2855_nCould my mission really be confined to seeking the best for the children to whom I gave birth? Or, as a Christian, should I define "family" more broadly? I'd see images of women and children suffering around the world, and those puzzling verses returned to my mind. Maybe, instead of obsessing over the happiness of my babies, I should stick my head out of the window, so to speak, look around, and ask, "Who is my family?"

It didn't feel right to simply shrug my shoulders and blithely accept my good fortune as compared to that of people born into extreme poverty. I'd buy my kids their new school clothes and shoes and then think of mothers who did not have the resources to provide their children with even one meal a day. I'd wonder: what's the connection between us? Does the fact that $10 malaria nets in African countries save whole families have anything to do with my family buying a new flat-screen TV? Should it? Is there any connection between me, a suburban, middle class mom, and women around the world?

10 Ways to Revive a Dying Church

You don't need a ton of proof to know that more and more churches are struggling to survive. It seems churches that are in this predicament have one of two options: revive or die. There are a lot of books, seminars, and workshops given on how to go about reviving a church. However, there is not one cookie cutter, full-proof, and effective strategy in reviving a church. Having said that, it doesn't mean that it is impossible. There are many examples of struggling churches that have successfully revived the congregation, increased the health of the church, and expanded their ministry.