Why go to church?

Timothy Radcliffe, OP. Why Go to Church? The Drama of the Eucharist. New York: Continuum, 2008. 224pp. $16.95.

61vJ7YNS6AL._SX324_BO1,204,203,200_I read Timothy Radcliffe’s book Why Go to Church? several years ago (probably 2012) in the company of some Anglicans (of the Anglo-Catholic persuasion). At the time, it felt like entering into a parallel universe where words like “church” and “communion” are used but seem to have different, even deeper, meaning than in common presbyterian parlance. While Radcliffe’s discussion is an interesting one, as a reformed evangelical I arrive at the same answer by a different and route.

Why go to church?

The question is an important one. And one that appears, at least by declines in church attendance across the country, to lack a culturally-compelling answer.

Two things have happened to bring Radcliffe’s question to mind once more. First, I’ve had children. Second, I no longer have regular parish duties.

In light of these new realities I find myself revisiting the question especially in light of what increasingly seems like the thin gruel of low church ecclesiology (which fails, in many respects, is a corruption of the lowest ecclesiological perspectives among the Protestant Reformers).

You might be wondering how having children and lacking parochial responsibilities have helped raised this question. 

First, children have a remarkable theological dexterity when it comes to trying to get out of going to church. Boil their questions down to their essence and you’ll discover that they’re really asking: what can I get a church that I can’t get elsewhere?  Yes, we could read the Bible together at home. Yes, we could take communion together. We could sing hymns. We could invite our small group over. We could do all of these things, to their way of thinking, without going to church.

Second, I’ve had more than a year off since I’ve regularly led worship. It’s amazing the things that seem necessary when you’re paid to do them. When you step into a different season of life it’s an opportunity to reevaluate why you do what you do. It’d be a lie to say that some weekends I don’t feel like going to church. I’ve got a thousand reasons and they’re likely the same as many of yours. No one is paying me to show up anymore–will I still show up?

To answer this simple question I could say that Scripture commands us not to forsake gathering for public worship (Hebrews 10:25). That’s true. I could say “there are no lone ranger Christians.” That’s also true. Let me skip to the end:

Through public worship–through common prayer, through the Word preached, and the sacraments received in faith resting on Christ’s righteousness alone–we receive grace that we cannot receive any other way. Charles Hodge refers to these “means of grace” as “channels” by which the Holy Spirit influences us toward holiness in union with Christ (Systematic Theology, 3:466).

If you want to remain rooted and established in Christ you must receive the grace of public worship. In its absence you will likely fall away from the faith.



Who is the real Thomas More?

John Guy, Thomas More: A Very Brief History. London: SPCK, 2018. 116pp. 

Will the real Thomas More please step forward?

Since the mid-Twentieth Century there have been at least two “Thomas Mores” vying for supremacy in the mind of the reading public. One is the principled, self-assured philosopher-kind of the A Man for All Seasons (1966). The other is the sneering sadistic zealot of Wolf Hall (2009). One is a saint, the other is very much, so to speak, a sinner.

John Guy–Fellow of Clare College, Cambridge–offers an eminently readable history of the enigmatic Thomas More, perhaps one of the most fascinating individuals in English history. In a quick 116 pages (TOC below) he whisks us through More’s life, death, and then explores his legacy and representation in modern literature.

The book begins, as it ought, by exploring some of the internal tensions that More himself seems to have experienced, beginning with his childhood. His story begins in the conflict between his desire for the cloister and his father’s desire for him, the chambers.

As the story unfolds, these two Thomases appear in conflict.

On the one hand, he is the renaissance man capable of writing the jovial, witty Utopia and carrying on a learned correspondence with his friend–that ultimate of renaissance men–Desiderius Erasmus. He is the capable theologian able to, at Henry VIII’s request, pen refutations of Luther’s doctrines. At the same time he appears to be at least savvy enough a politician to become Henry VIII’s Lord Chancellor and to advance Henry’s agenda.

Without tracing More’s entire life, it seems (in Guy’s estimation) that there was a tipping point. A moment–not necessarily an instant–in which the theologian and author of Utopia won out over the political More. It would lead to his death.

Guy does a wonderful job of unwinding the threads of More’s self and offering a helpful topography of the religious and civil realities of Tudor England. A particularly unique contribution is his treatment of the reception of More in subsequent generations. He includes More’s successors who engaged in a successful campaign to rehabilitate More for a post-reformation society. I heartily commend it.


Table of Contents



Part 1 – The History

  1. Shaping a mind
  2. Utopia
  3. The king’s servant
  4. The dissident

Part 2 – The Legacy

  1. More’s writings
  2. Thomas More in art
  3. Canonization
  4. The lure of fiction






A question to change the world

Ordinary Time

A simple question can change the world. Sound preposterous doesn’t it? Yet, I’m convinced its true.

[inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=””]Over the last year I’ve taken to asking myself, “is the world a better place for my having done this?” Or, alternately, “do I want to live in a town where people do this?”[/inlinetweet]

A simple example. There are miles of prairie paths and bike trails around our home. These paths inevitably have to cross suburban roads. When I’m tempted not to yield to a walker or runner, I ask: do I want to live in a place where drivers show disregard for legal rights of way?

My answer is: no. I don’t. One day I will be on the path and wanting to cross the street. I’d like people to let me cross as the law allows.

It’s a simple question. There’s nothing remarkable or profound about it. Use it regularly, it can change you and change the world.


Five dimensions of organizational culture

Navigating organizational culture

[rt_reading_time label=”Reading Time:” postfix=”minutes” postfix_singular=”minute”]

[inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=””]When you join an organization, you have a short window of time to adapt to its culture [/inlinetweet]— and too many talented individuals stumble in their new company because they fail to read the cultural tea leaves.

This happens because most organizations don’t explain the cultural rules to newcomers, and new hires are so focused on the job and the new boss that they overlook the rules’ profound influence.

Yet understanding the culture plays a big role in your initial success. Being cognizant of not just what your colleagues do but how they work matters if you want to be effective and be perceived well.

[inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=””]There are five dimensions of culture that have a big impact on your ability to navigate a new job: [/inlinetweet]how your organization values and cultivates relationships, how people tend to communicate, how people make decisions, whether individuals or groups are valued, and how accepting people are of change.

Read the full article here .

Surviving a crisis


When the storm hits

I almost drowned once. No, I wasn’t caught by a rip tide. I didn’t lose my bearings and drift out to sea. And a helicopter didn’t rescue nor did David Hasselhoff. 

I’m speaking metaphorically.

I served in the leadership of an organization that went through a terrible ordeal—a conflict I’ve never seen the likes of elsewhere. 

And it almost killed me.

Drowning—metaphorical or not—isn’t a pleasant experience. 

[inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=””]The thing is, however, that once you escape it and survive it, it re-calibrates your expectations. [/inlinetweet]

Recalibrating expectations

That heated conversation in a meeting? We can get past that. 

The difficulty planning logistics for a conference? We can muddle through. 

A challenging author? No worries. 

When you’ve survived extensive exposure to a near-toxic environment, just about everything else becomes manageable. 

As one former infantry officer put it, “Did anyone die?” If no one died; it’s a good day.

When you emerge after the crisis it’ll take you some time to find your feet again, but you will. 

I’m back in the saddle

Now that we’re pretty settled in Wheaton, I’ve decided that it’s time to get back on the bike. The truth is, cycling is the only form of exercise that I *love* to do. At least, I loved it when I was in shape.

My initial goal is to get into a regular rhythm of cycling.

Not huge distances.

No record-beating paces.

Just me and the bike–capturing the joy of the saddle.


The power of focus


Focus is a hot commodity

Then you’re struggling with focus, where do you go? Probably somewhere quiet. The question is where have all the quiet places gone?

In the midst of our overly-connected world it turns out that focus thrives in the absence of external stimulation.

[inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=””]The BBC reports that increasing numbers of students are seeking out monasteries in the attempt regain focus as they prepare for exams.[/inlinetweet]


Is there something deeper going on here? 


You might also like this post: Why is monastic life so appealing?

Finding the holy in everyday life

Finding Holy in the Suburbs

IVP – October 2018 – $16.00

How can we be holy when our lives are a mess?


[inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=””]I doubt that any of us is today precisely where we thought we’d be when we were, say, eighteen. Our lives play out in ways we never thought they would.[/inlinetweet]

Those who journey through life without succumbing to the vices that are so easy to cultivate, do so because they have paid at least some attention to the ways that Jesus stepped into a less-than-ideal situation and in so doing redeemed.

[inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=””]Regardless of where you live or whether you’re a man or a woman, what kind of car (or minivan you drive) Ashley Hales’s book can re-orient you in the midst of the less-than-ideal or, sometimes more dangerous, when you think you’re living the dream.[/inlinetweet]

It’s availably for pre-order now and comes out in October


The definitive history of evangelicalism


The definitive history of Evangelicalism

[inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=””]The History of Evangelicalism Series offers the definitive account of the development of the Christian movement that has most significantly shaped the culture of the United States. [/inlinetweet]

Buy Now! $157.50

This series seeks to integrate the social and intellectual history of a diverse yet cohesive Christian movement over the last three hundred years. The associations, books, practices, beliefs, networks of influence and prominent individuals which descended from the eighteenth-century British and North American revivals all come into view. Accessible to a wide range of readers, the volumes of the History of Evangelicalism Series provide not only factual details but also fascinating interpretations of a movement that is still influential today.

Volumes include:

  • The Rise of Evangelicalism: The Age of Edwards, Whitefield and the Wesleys by Mark A. Noll
  • The Expansion of Evangelicalism: The Age of More, Wilberforce, Chalmers and Finney by John R. Wolffe
  • The Dominance of Evangelicalism: The Age of Spurgeon and Moody by David W. Bebbington
  • The Disruption of Evangelicalism: The Age of Mott, Machen and McPherson by Geoff Treloar
  • The Global Diffusion of Evangelicalism: The Age of Graham and Stott by Brian Stanley

Five ways to waste your weekend

Webp.net-resizeimage (2)Weekends are precious so make sure you don’t waste yours

It’s been about a year since our family made the change to both Anna and I working full-time and out-of-the-house. The way we think about weekends has changed immensely! It’s challenging to find a sustainable pace.

Before that, either one or both of us had worked from home. There are some definite down-sides to working from home, but that kind of flexibility does make it way easier to get a full work day in and stay up on chores–especially if you’re able to avoid an hour in the car.

Over the last year I’ve made a number of mis-steps in managing the week which have led to wasted weekends. Here are five easy ways to waste your weekend and go back to work on Monday feeling robbed.

Do nothing but chores

The weekend won’t last forever.

Use every last ounce of energy to knock out every possible chore you could need to do during the week.

Fall into bed on Sunday night exhausted and then when the alarm goes off in the morning: hate your life.

Better alternative: try spacing out chores every night. Make a schedule and try to avoid all-or-nothing thinking.

Eat comfort food

 finally made it to the weekend.

You’re tired. You don’t want to cook.

Just grab a frozen pizza, fling it into a pre-heated oven and eat. 

Better alternative: Plan out some salads, fish, or other healthy meals so that you don’t have to make a decision in the moment.

Hibernate in the house

You get up early every morning and leave the house. You spend ours in the car each week fighting traffic. You deserve to stay on the couch all weekend watching sports.

Don’t you?

Better alternative: make time for rest and for exertion. If all you do is veg you’ll find yourself becoming lethargic. If all you do is exert, you’ll find yourself exhausted.

Say Yes to Everything

You only have one weekend. Try to pack a week’s worth of fun into it. 

There’s a lot going on.

Do. It. All.

Better alternative: designate part of your weekend solely for things that give you energy and that lift your spirit.

Burn the midnight oil

Sleep is for old people.

Young people.

The weak.

Make sure you wring every moment from the weekend by staying up late and getting up early. You’ll make up for it during the work week.

So. How do you waste your weekend?