A few years ago, I read a fascinating and somewhat controversial book called The Churching of America, by Roger Finke and Rodney Stark. In it the authors examined and brought to light the history of religion in America by arguing it works as a free market economy, an economy in which there are winners and losers. The authors were not pastors or theologians, but professors of sociology and they tackled the issue as sociologists. They do not speak much about orthodoxy or heterodoxy or faithful confessions but use the language of economics.

Last weekend I competed in my first World Master Jiu-Jitsu competition. Over several days, hundreds of athletes descended on the Las Vegas Convention Center for the biggest master’s competition in the sport. The whole event was awesome. I was terrified, anxious and eager all at the same time. To stand across the mat from a person I have never met and engage in a combat sport is something I never imagined I would find myself doing, especially at the age of 44. But there I was, and it was an experience I will not soon forget.

By Cindy Koch

All extremes, except extreme devotion to the Enemy, are to be encouraged. Not always, of course, but at this period. Some ages are lukewarm and complacent, then it is our business to soothe them yet faster asleep. Other ages, of which the present is one, are unbalanced and prone to faction, and it is our business to inflame them.” – C. S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters.

Set in the turbulent time of World War II, this fictional conversation between demons enlightens the continually crafty work of the modern Satan. Demon Uncle Screwtape writes advice to his devilish nephew, Wormwood, regarding the fate of a person on earth. This man struggles with the most common of things: his friends, his mother, his faith, and what’s for lunch. But it is the task of the demon team to keep him at a far distance from their great Enemy, God.

By Paul Koch

I have occasionally been asked about my preaching style. That is, every now and then someone will wonder why I preach the way I do. How do I choose what to focus on from a given text? Why don’t I use notes when I preach? Why won’t I just stay put in the pulpit like a good preacher? And to tell the truth, the short answer to such questions is that I am personally a terrible sermon listener. When I try to put myself in your shoes, when I actually sit in the pew and listen to a sermon, I get all fidgety, and it’s hard to keep focus and stay on track. My wife would most likely tell you it is easier to sit with all five of our children by herself than it is to be next to me. So, I have tried to make it a habit of wondering what it is like to be where you are, to be the listener rather than the speaker. I wonder what sort of questions you might be asking yourself, what sort of thoughts are going through your mind when you come to church. In fact, I wonder if you ever question what this is all about. When you get right down to it, what is church about?