Archive for Church

Do churches make people fat? (A World Food Day* post)

Posted in Musings with tags , on October 17, 2012 by johnfom


Do churches make people fat?  I am not about bashing churches I just want to get your attention and make you think.  However, I am concerned that certain aspects of our culture provide an environment which makes it more difficult for people to maintain a healthy weight.  This is what is known as an ‘obesogenic environment.’  In such an environment a person is faced with a whole range of cultural cues and environmental factors that trigger overeating in general, the over consumption of the wrong kinds of food and a sedentary lifestyle.  The obesogenic factors involved in our society are far too numerous to list here but can range from simple things such as larger dinner plates (therefore larger portions sizes), to the ads we see on tv, to the way our cities are designed (reducing the ability to exercise).  These factors pervade our whole society and are not always readily identifiable, meaning we have to take to time to think about how the way society is structured affects the way we eat.  Our churches are part of the society so it is fair enough to ask are there any inbuilt cues, structure or factors in church life that contribute to the development of obesity to those who attend church.

I do not want to be exhaustive but rather provide a starting point with which we can begin to talk about this issue.  Something that comes to mind is the way some youth groups I have been involved with have regularly offered unhealthy snacks (potato crisps, coke, lollies, pizza etc) while the youth sit around a study or movie.  What does this teach teens about healthy eating?  In a similar fashion pot luck lunches are interesting but contribute to people losing the ability to judge portion sizes correctly.  As church life is by its very nature a series of social events it is inevitable that a good number of these events will contain obesogenic factors reinforcing existing bad habits people have obtained over a lifetime of an unhealthy approach to diet and exercise.

I do not think all churches are full of fat people.  This would be too simplistic a viewpoint as I see instances when groups in churches get together to play sports or lose weight.  My point is that each and every church needs to consciously and deliberately examine the ways in which church life throws up barriers to healthy living.  In my view it is awful to think that the way we organise church life makes it harder for some people to lose weight etc.  In my view it is not enough to wait until some is seriously ill or near death from complications relating to obesity before we act (usually in the form of prayer).  Should we not at least be concerned about the health of our fellow Christians now?  Action now would demonstrate that we love and care for each other.  In light of this I would rephrase my original question to, ‘Does my church contribute to the obesity of its people?’  And I would urge you to agitate for change where necessary for the sake of the health of your fellow worshipers.


Darren J. Clark

(*World Food Day is 16 October)


Why Do They Leave the Church?

Posted in From others... with tags , , on October 10, 2012 by johnfom

A theory by Matt Redmond on a subject I’ve blogged on previously.

From Matt Redmond:

Here is my theory – one reason why so many people, young and old, leave the faith is no one is helping them think about what the great majority of what their lives are made up of.

Christianity is given (sold?) to us, in the main, as a life of evangelism, morality and church activities. Evangelism is painful for most people. Morality is great but there are always unbelievers who are more moral. And church activities, even when profoundly helpful, are another spinning plate in already busy lives…

Usually, our work is seen as just a means of evangelism or make money for those doing the real work of the kingdom in other lands…

But let’s face it, outside of the Lutherans, who is talking about work and vocation?
Read in full: Why Do They Leave the Church?.

See here for my previous rant:  Why men hate going to church.

Why men hate going to church | Christian News on Christian Today

Posted in From others..., Rants with tags , , , on September 9, 2011 by johnfom

Drawing men to the pews may not be as simple as cutting sermons short and throwing out the cringe-making church talk

via Why men hate going to church | Christian News on Christian Today.

Although the linked opinion piece is light on practicalities, it at least leaves you with a counter example, and re-raises a couple of ideas (re WWI, etc) which I haven’t heard for a little while.

If I were to add my own perspective, I’d be looking to point out that churches tend to be run by men for women.  As such they end up not really being satisfactory for anyone.

*Warning: Gender stereotype zone begins*

The reasons for men leaving the church, or just never really setting foot in one, has occupied my thought on and off for close to 15 years now.  I don’t know that I’m any closer to a ‘silver-bullet’ for the problem than when I started, but one thing that does keep cropping up is credibility.

Too many churches seem to have an aversion to genuine challenges to their orthodoxy.  There is an almost palpable fear of probing questions.  Surely, if Jesus is ‘the truth’ then there is nothing to fear from difficult questions.  Churches should be encouraging questions, not offering cliched answers, about suffering, evil, war, politics, euthanasia, abortion, gender, justice… just about everything.

Instead, it’s my experience that some, admittedly learned, guy gets up the front, spouts on about ‘the right way to look at’ some verse or issue, (usually saying the same thing over and over again), everyone says ‘hear, hear’ and goes home to forget the sermon and get on with their lives.  Once in a blue moon the minister/pastor/priest will accidentally say something which gets to you for a while, but that’s relatively rare (sorry to all those who labour over their weekly homilies).

Blokes tend to like to make things, and when they make things they ‘stress test’ them.  You put up a swing for your 20kg kid and you’ll probably jump on the swing with your 80+kg mass (or in my case 100+) just to make sure it’s strong enough.  Put up a shelf and you’ll find yourself hanging from it for a few seconds to check that it won’t fall down under the weight of the half dozen glass trinkets your wife wants to put on it.  When you’re looking to buy a car you’ll check out the crash test info just to make sure it’s tough enough to withstand any other family members practicing their ‘parking by braille’ (of course, we blokes are awesome drivers and never inadvertently curb wheels or bump up against carpark walls) .

Some of the best times I’ve had with other men were times when we were testing out some new boat, or car, or pool, or whatever… putting it through it’s paces to find its limits

My advice to those who want to attract men to church… make your sermon simple and solid.  Then invite all and sundry (really invite, don’t just fling out a rhetorical invitation)  to help you to hit itwith everything they’ve got, and when the smoke clears, whatever still stands is worthwhile.  Stress test your sermons, and let the rest of us into ‘the shed’ to help you do that.

*End gender stereotype zone*

Golden Vellum*

Posted in Rants with tags , , , on August 15, 2011 by johnfom

*Vellum: calfskin, lambskin, kidskin, etc., treated for use as a writing surface.

I’ve been meaning to write this one up for a while.  I’m a student of the bible but I’m dismayed at the level of idolatry of scripture in evangelical circles.  We call the bible the word of God, but I often think that it is mistaken for THE Word of God a found in John 1:1 (i.e. Jesus).  It must be said that the bible is not Jesus.  Even to a bibliophile such as myself, the bible should be recognised as ‘words about The Word of God’.  The following uses a famous story from scripture as a base in an attempt to highlight how wrong that worship of the bible is.

The Golden Vellum (a ‘Golden Calf‘ parable).

When the people saw that Jesus was so long in coming back, they gathered and said, “Come, let us make a god we can see. As for this fellow Jesus who brought us salvation, we don’t know what has happened to him.” Athanasius answered them, “Get all of the writings, the reports of our history and bring them to me.” So all the people got their writings and brought them to Athanasius. He took what they handed him and made it into a book, a bible, fashioning it into a canon, giving it gold-gilt pages. Then they said, “Here is the word of the Lord, which brings salvation.”

When the Synod of Hippo Regius saw this, they said “Let these writings be read at all the meetings of the Church.” So, the people gathered for selected readings from the canon, giving reverence to the bible and engaging in worship with it. Afterward they sat down with themselves to eat and drink.

Then the LORD said to Jesus, “Go down, because your people, whom you brought to salvation, have become corrupt. They have been quick to turn away from me and from care for others, and have made themselves an idol cast in the shape of a book. They have bowed down before it and sacrificed their loyalty to it and have said, ‘Here is your god, Christians, who brought you salvation.’”

“I have seen these people,” the LORD said to Jesus, “and they are a stiff-necked people. My anger burns against them, but I wish to make them a people for me.”

When Jesus approached the Church and saw the bible and the things his Church had done in its name, his anger burned.

He said to the Church leaders, “What did these people do to you, that you led them into such great sin?”

“Do not be angry, my lord,” they answered. “You know how prone these people are to evil. They said to us, ‘Make us gods who we can see. As for this fellow Jesus who brought us salvation, we don’t know what has happened to him.’ So we told them, ‘Here is a book containing all of the wisdom of God. There is no truth other than what is in here.'”

Jesus saw that the people were suppressed and that the leaders had encouraged them to try to suppress others and so become a laughingstock to their enemies. So he stood at the entrance to the Church and said, “Whoever is for the LORD, come to me.” And some of them came to listen to him.

Then he said to them, “This is what the LORD, God, says: ‘When you see one who is hungry, feed them. When you see someone naked, clothe them. When you see someone thirsty, give them a drink. Welcome strangers of all kinds, look after those who are sick, and befriend those who have been shunned.’” The people who were for God did as Jesus commanded, and many people came to know God. Then Jesus said, “You have been set apart to the LORD today, for you were against the your own brothers and sisters, and he has blessed you this day.”

Jesus said to the Church, “You have committed a great sin. But I have made atonement for your sin.”

So Jesus spoke to the LORD and said, “Oh, what a great sin these people have committed! They have made themselves a god of writing. But, please forgive their sin.”

The LORD replied to Jesus, “If they repent, they will be forgiven of their sin. Because of you I will not punish them.”

But the LORD took his blessing from the Church because of what they did with the bible they had made.

Evolution of a religion

Posted in Soundbite Philosophy with tags , , , , on August 9, 2011 by johnfom

‘When the Greeks got the gospel, they turned it into a philosophy; when the Romans got it, they turned it into a government; when the Europeans got it, they turned it into a culture; and when the Americans got it, they turned it into a business’ -Richard Halverson


Posted in From others... with tags , , on July 18, 2009 by johnfom

I’ve just gotta share this one. Another fine post from NakedPastor.


Posted in Rants with tags , , on February 18, 2009 by johnfom

NightedChrist Church of OxfordOver the last couple of weeks I’ve been turning my thoughts to the idea of institutions.

NightedBy institution I mean an organization, establishment, foundation, society, or the like, devoted to the promotion of a particular cause or program.  They are usually set up as an answer to some sort of problem or question in society. Most churches are institutions;  institutions initially devoted to the promotion of the Christian message and Christian life.  Goverments are institutions, or in many cases, collections of institutions ostensibly devoted to the promotion of a country’s or a society’s way of life.

Given enough time an institution becomes that other type of institution: a well-established and structured pattern of behavior or of relationships that is accepted as a fundamental part of a culture.  When that happens, one of the main aims of the institution becomes to maintain itself.  After all has become a fundamental part of culture.  If the institution disappears, the culture will collapse.

This is something that has been bothering me though. This seemingly ubiquitous tendancy for institutions to become self devoted organisms.  At some point, given enough time, or given enough size, an institution’s primary devotion becomes sustaining itself.  Sure it’s stated aims, it’s mission statement, it’s goals, etc all point towards what the institution WANTS to be known for, but ultimately it’s primary goal is to keep running, and in many cases expand, so that it can be around to attempt those stated aims.

But what happens when the culture moves on?  Even though an institution may become a fundamental part of culture, culture is a democratic animal.  Everyone who participates in a culture has the power to change it in small ways.  In fact everyone who participates in a culture DOES change it in small ways just by being a part of it!  What happens if the culture changes so much that the institution is no longer fundamental?

What happens if a particular institution is now answering a question that is no longer being asked?

What happens if technology changes society and culture so much that a particular institution is no longer the only, or the best, answer to the question it was set up to answer in the first place?

What happens if the institute has been around for so long, and has gotten so big, that it takes vast resources to keep it running and some people rely on it for their own lively hood?

What happens if an institution begins to cost more in resources, personell and time than it is worth to those who it is supposedly supporting?

In other words, what happens when the problem of the loss of an institution is more  about that the institution will be affected, rather than that the cause or program the institution was supposedly for will be affected?

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