By Ryan Weber
When Science Challenges Your Faith
Last year, Journey Students did a series called God Science. Our goal in that series was to figure out what went on between God and Science: “vs,” “or,” “and” “hates,” “loves.” What fits? In the series, we touched on many of the apologetic discussions regarding the dichotomy between God and science.
Unsurprisingly, the discussion centered upon two different things: Creation vs. Evolution, and the verifiable and historical proofs for the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Those seem to be the biggies when it comes to any apologetic discussion in the realm of science, and PhD’s and theologians have been arguing and debating for centuries about these. The answers are out there, you just need to check your bias (we ALL have a bias… I’ll explain more this weekend) and do a little research. Those discussions are ancient.
The tension that we’ll be discussing is our view of PROGRESS. Should we embrace it? Should we reject it? What is the line between being a progressive and a conservative when it comes to scientific discovery? What progress comes from God and what comes from scientists with an anti-religious bias? This is tension! Because Christians have a reputation for being completely anti-progressive (you’re not… even if you’re an “ultra-conservative”), this narrative is spoken everywhere.
I want to spend the remainder of this preview talking about the greatest tension that science poses to our faith moving forward. And this is in the areas of transhumanism and bioethics. And before you think I’m more of a genius than I actually am, I hadn’t even thought about these things before I sat down with Donnie to prepare for the message I’m preaching on Sunday morning.
Transhumanism = Artificial Intelligence
Bioethics = the ethics of medical and biological research
These two areas are going to be instrumental in shaping our future and if we as Jesus followers don’t engage in the tension that these areas will present, our world could potentially move in a direction that we don’t want it to move.
We need to begin engaging our minds in scientific discussion. And believe me, I hate science just as much as you. I hate it. Can’t stand it. Throw up when I think about it. But we need to begin to learn how to learn. Google is your friend if you use it the right way. Because this world is moving, and we cannot be left behind.
The questions that we must engage in revolve around the inevitable progress of science in these two areas and the position in which we stand as advocates, campaigners, champions… for people. We as Jesus followers stand for people, their intrinsic value, their will, their standing in the eyes of God.
Is it appropriate, then, for artificial intelligence to replace humanity in jobs, displacing them and perhaps any value or purpose? Or will it make everyone’s lives easier? We can just sit on cruise control and let the machines do all the work? What about cloning? If a person was created in a lab, were they created in the image of God? What about micro-whatever’s that scientists can potentially implant to track your movement, track your vitals, or even change your brain chemistry to help you avoid certain overt criminal activity? Progress?
What about an article I read on BBC where scientists are creating life-size, talking, moving sex dolls? (Wish I was joking, but I’m not). Is it adultery when you trade sex with your spouse with sex with an animatronic doll? You’re not hurting anyone. right? You’re not technically sleeping with anyone else, right?
This blog post is littered with questions marks. That’s because these questions are so complex and wide-ranging. It’s also because nobody is having these conversations, which is why we’re starting the conversation this Sunday at Journey! Invite a friend and let’s talk about it!
By Ryan Weber
In preparing to write this blog, I did what any rational person would do. I googled the topic I was given to write about. The answers I got back all had to do with the local church working to increase the giving of its members/attenders. From a church leadership perspective, there is a practical element of giving, which is probably why Google is littered with those websites. To be real, there is no other way for the lights to stay on, the air-conditioning to work, and for the staff and pastors to get paid without the generosity of its members/partners. We can’t ignore these practical sides to generosity.
The problem most people have, again to be frankly transparent, is that most people don’t trust that the church is going to use their hard-earned money wisely. I totally get that. That’s why giving to a local church needs to be tied into your own passion for the mission, vision, and values of the local body you belong to.
Because at its root, giving to the church is an investment.
We live in a world, especially in America, that the idea of investment immediately brings to mind an element of return. Our ROI (Return On Investment) gives us reason to invest in the first place. If I am not going to get anything in return for the financial investment I am making, it’s probably not a very good investment.
But we’re not talking about the stock market. We’re talking about the Kingdom of God. And that ROI looks a little different. Our ROI is people being humbly pointed to absolute Hope. Our ROI is watching people transform into disciples of Jesus. Our ROI, simply put, is life change.
So how do you invest in the church?
- Through your tithe. The principle of tithing is your most consistent way to invest. Finding a local church that you can consistently invest in through your tithes gives you the opportunity to see the mission of your church carried out. If you are bought into the mission and vision of Journey Church, part of being a contributing partner is supporting our work through your financial contributions. We want to humbly point everyone to absolute Hope. If this is something that you are passionate about, and believe Journey works to make this happen in the Lake Norman community, invest in the work through your participation: by your active engagement through volunteering/service and your financial contributions to see the ministry successfully fulfill its mission.
- Give to individual missionaries. This principle hits home for me as I prepare to head to Haiti with a group of students and their families. I can tell you there is nothing that makes me more proud and excited for the future state of the church than watching a group of teenagers sacrificially offering their time and resources to give hope to people in a third world country. I’ve seen our teens pray through their calling, work through their fears, and trust that God is going to provide all the necessary funds to send them on their mission trip. You may not have the margin to go to Haiti, Kenya, Peru, or West Virginia, but in financially investing in those who do, you play a huge role in pointing people to absolute Hope through our strategic partners around the world.
- Give above and beyond for specific ministry purposes. There are opportunities to give specifically to areas of ministry that align with your own passions and individual areas that you wish to give to. Whether it’s an individual donation to Bags of Hope, a scholarship for a student to go to Core Adventures, helping a child to go to Camp KidJam, or if you have a specific desire for a particular area of ministry, the church is not going to say no when you want to step out in generosity to make something happen for an individual or a ministry. If you have a passion you want to give your time and money to, step into that and understand that the church exists to help you invest in the things you care about. If you wish to see a particular ministry be taken to the next level, partnering financially with them is a huge way to support them. Or if you have a ministry that you are passionate about that Journey is not doing, talk to the staff and work to launch it yourself! There’s nothing that we celebrate more than people stepping into their God-given desires to see people pointed to Hope!
When it comes to investing in God’s Kingdom, remember that you can never out-give God. Your return on investment will never return void if you are sold out to building God’s Kingdom in our community!
By Ryan Weber
Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock somewhere for the past two years, you’ve probably heard of the amazingly successful Broadway musical, Hamilton. It tells the story, in hip hop, of the life of founding father Alexander Hamilton, his work as Secretary of the Treasury, and how he helped form so many of America’s foundational principles.
One of the coolest songs in that show is simply called, “My Shot.” It a song that Hamilton sings as he enters into America as a young immigrant and wants to make a name for himself. If you want to fully comprehend how cool (and white) I am, I will be more than happy to rap the song for you if I see you in the lobby.
The theme of Hamilton not throwing away his shot runs throughout the musical. He doesn’t want to throw away his shot at being a part of the Revolution, being George Washington’s private secretary, becoming Treasury of the Secretary, and potentially running for President. At the end, though (and this can’t be a spoiler if you know your American history), Hamilton does throw away his shot, quite literally, as he gets killed in a dual with Aaron Burr.
The musical does a phenomenal job portraying Hamilton’s thoughts as his life comes to a close. Instead of thinking about all the things he had accomplished, or priding himself on his own personal ambition, what he regrets the most about throwing away this shot is that he won’t be able to spend time with his wife.
When everything else faded away, the what of Hamilton’s life quickly transformed to a who.
The who (not the band, of course) makes our lives worth it. And in the context of our Storytellers series, those people to whom we decide to share our story and The Story make everything worth it. And when it comes to sharing our story with those around us, specifically our Top 5, we cannot throw away our shot. We’ve talked about the how and the what of our story, but I’m super excited to talk about who we get to share our story with!
I can’t wait to gather together with all of you this weekend.
By Ryan Weber
I recently asked a few high school students what it means to lead someone, whether it’s on a spiritual level, athletically, socially, whatever. Their answer: “I dunno, just be nice.”
One of my burdens as a pastor to students is to equip and ready them to lead in a generation and culture that is increasingly becoming indifferent about faith and ignorant of a strong, biblical worldview. Leadership is a difficult concept to teach. Paul writes in Romans 12:8 and 1 Corinthians 12:28 that leadership is itself a spiritual gift.
Talking to your teen about leadership is complex. We are still trying to instill within them a spirit of submission for parents, teachers, coaches, bosses, etc. The ability to develop this skill is vital to proper growth in so many areas of their lives. By learning to submit, these teenagers will become better students, better teammates, better employees, and better future spouses and parents themselves. It’s hard to fully teach leadership to people who are bombarded almost daily with stipulations and rules that limit their ability to lead. They are told when to wake up, when to go to school, what classes to take, when to leave school, how much homework is required of them, when to be at practice, what to do at practice, when to be home for dinner, why they can’t go out with their friends this weekend, etc., etc.
I get it. We want our teens to submit because we know what’s best for them. We want to put them in the best situation to succeed, and we do that by being hands on. That’s what good parents, teachers, leaders do. They invest intentionally in the lives of the people they are called to lead. So the difficulty is in letting go. Allowing them to take the principles and insights that you have given them through their upbringing and let them practice. This may mean you communicate to them that you are going to lengthen their leash (figuratively speaking, of course… maybe) and allow them to make decisions on their own.
One of the things that we tell our students who go on our Core Adventures Camp (which by the way, if you have a Middle or High School Student, sign them up for Core Adventures right now. It really will be one of the best experiences of their year) that their leaders are not their babysitters. We will not be keeping track of everything that they do from sun-up to sun-down. We aren’t going to be policing the campground after lights out to make sure they aren’t trying to set the campground on fire. We expect more of them. They will live with the consequences of their own choices. If we as leaders find out that they abused that privilege, they know exactly why they are getting their discipline. We tell them at the beginning of the week that their leaders will be looking for those people that take it upon themselves, step up, and lead their team of peers.
Do you want to know what that does? It opens up an opportunity for your kids to blow you away. Will some of them make dumb choices? Of course, they’re kids and their brain synapses don’t always fire the way you’d expect normal human being’s synapses to fire. But these kids will step up, they will encourage one another, they will keep each other accountable, they will put end to conversations that shouldn’t be happening, they will open up about struggles, and do life together.
The issue that I come across is that often we don’t need to talk to our students more about leadership (though I think we can pair our many talks with our teens with some biblical back-up, it may make your job a bit easier). We do that enough. We need to let them exhibit what it is we are stressing. They can’t make wise choices if you are making all the wise choices for them. At some point, we need to let them do what it is we’re telling them to do.
If they want to quit the baseball team in the middle of the season, talk to them about the ramifications of that decision, talk to them about what effect that may have, but let them make a decision. They will come to grips with the consequences. And they will grow. That’s what a good leader does. Makes a choice. Learns. Keeps growing.
By Ryan Weber
Christmas Break is almost here! And back when I used to get one (can we start a petition to institute Christmas Breaks for us, please?), I remember that marvelous feeling of pure and unadulterated joy. Like your face is about to explode type of joy.
I didn’t have to do homework for two weeks, I didn’t have to listen to that boring teacher for two weeks, I don’t have to deal with that annoying kid for two weeks, I don’t have to wake up early for two weeks, I don’t have to do ANYTHING for two weeks.