Four men sitting in a room, a presbyterian, a church planter, a worship leader and a baptist… it reads like the beginning of a bad joke doesn’t it? But these four men with a passion for Christ, the church and the highlands of Scotland have decided to record a series of podcasts and you are invited to listen in, so here is the first.
It’s holiday club time again at our church and all hands were on deck to transform our squeaky clean new church into the mythical city of Ancora where many adventures lie ahead for those who pass through it’s gates, not least of all those people who had to make that transformation happen. There was little point me being involved in this work of art. My own children discovered very quickly, probably around the age of 2, not to ask dad to draw anything for them, they could do it so much better themselves. However, my wife and number 2 child were heavily involved so I tootled along to survey progress and was immediately dispatched back home to gather a Laura Ashley throw, 4 matching cushions, 2 lanterns and some Christmas tree lights, all required to add to the “ancient eastern look” that was required.
So duly dispatched I got back to the house and was thinking as I picked up the throw from the back of the couch “will this return from the mystical east in one piece and usable or is it doomed to destruction at the hands of hoards of holiday club children”. Almost immediately this phrase popped into my head “everything we have is for the service of the King”. My initial concerns were for the safe return of a piece of cloth but as a Christian I believe that everything I have has been supplied by the hand of God, on loan to be utilised for both my comfort and enjoyment, and to be called into his service whenever it is required.
So our family have temporarily relinquished ownership of a Laura Ashley throw, 4 matching cushions, 2 lanterns and some Christmas tree lights, our lovely new church has become Ancora for the week and a collection of people of all ages, from many occupations have given up a weeks holiday, and many hours of “leisure time” before this, all “in service of the King”. We live in a world where many people try to find fulfilment through entertainment delivered through technology (see previous blog). Can I suggest an alternative approach to life and fulfilment, a life dedicated to “the service of the King”.
We all have a tendency not to want to serve anyone else but ourselves, and the idea of handing over control of our lives to someone else is not really the modern way. Even those of us who claim to be Christians find being servants of God, our King, somewhat of a challenge, but the reality we have discovered is that it is only through this surrender that we find fulfilment. And the more we surrender to more we find fulfilment.
So to you Christian, can I encourage you to use all you have and all you are in “service of the King”, and to those of you who seek fulfilment why not come along come along and visit us here at Culloden-Balloch Baptist Church (Ancora for one week only) and we will willingly help you discover your servant heart and help you find the fulfilment you desire.
Pokémon Go has taken America (and now the UK) by storm. If you’ve seen people on the streets of your neighborhood peering into their phones, you’ve witnessed their attempt to catch mythical creatures that appear in various places. Pokémon Go is a cross between geocaching and augmented reality games, and the results have been astounding.
As the Washington Post reports:
Pokémon Go has already been downloaded more times than the dating app Tinder, and it is rapidly encroaching on Twitter, which has been around for a full 10 years. Nintendo’s stock soared nearly 25 percent Monday because of the game — its biggest gain in more than 30 years.
It’s a mania, or it’s magical – depending on your take.
If you’re a parent who has questions about the game, check out this primer from Tony Kummer about what it is and how to avoid potential dangers (like, crossing the street without looking both ways!). Two friends of mine, Chris Martin and Aaron Earls, offer good advice for churches, as does Joshua Clayton of Southwestern Seminary. And there’s been some controversy regarding appropriate places to play. (Arlington Cemetery and the Holocaust Museum? Uh, no.)
It would be easy to wave off this game as just a silly fad, and certainly most people who have taken it up are just having a little fun. But perhaps we have an opportunity here to step back and ask a few questions.
Why is this game so popular?
Why is it popular right now?
What need does it momentarily meet?
The popularity of Pokémon Go tells us something about American life in the 21st century. Many people experience the world as flattened out and devoid of wonder, and they worry that our society seems to be fracturing. These feelings create pressure points in our culture, and Pokémon Go provides a fleeting sense of relief.
1. We live in a fractured world longing for community.
In the past few months, we’ve gone from bad news to worse. We’ve seen protests and riots, mass shootings and terrorist attacks. We are in the midst of a political realignment that has led to internal fracturing within our two-party system and an anti-establishment wave of populism that appeals to some of the darker impulses of the American populace. Meanwhile, our social media habits connect us to likeminded individuals, but further polarize our discourse and isolate us from the people in closest proximity to us.
But then, as if someone sprinkled fairy dust over the country, people of all ages decide to leave the loneliness of their homes and workplaces, go out into the streets, and catch mythical creatures through an app on their phone.
Police officers are playing the game with protestors. Many churches are sites for Pokémon gymnasiums. Kids who typically stay indoors during the summer are roaming the streets looking for Pidgeys and Eevees. As I walked the streets with my kids this week, neighbors came out to ask us what we’d caught and to give tips on finding where the rarest beasts lurk.
Here’s a report from downtown in a large city:
At one point someone yelled “THERE’S A RHYDON IN THE STREET!” and from my position I could see 50+ people all turn their cameras in the same direction to reveal the beast. For a moment there WAS a huge stony rhinoceros in the middle of downtown. It was real. For as silly as it was, I will never forget that moment. This game is unreal, it’s bringing people together.
Or consider this tweet from a veteran:
I’m a vet with PTSD. The last three years, leaving my yard was a chore. Today I took my kid to the park and talked to 20 random strangers. Thank you Nintendo.
The social aspect of this game is a big part of its appeal. In a world where we feel like people are pulling apart, a simple game provides a momentary feeling of togetherness.
2. We live in a flattened world longing for transcendence.
In a secular age, it is common for people to conceive of the world in terms of scientific cause and effect. We are less likely to be stunned by the magnificence of this world, and more likely to feel as if we are only cogs in a naturalistic machine. The secular mind, due to its rationalist foundation, must create meaning rather than discover it.
But suddenly, a game based on Japanese mythology invades the naturalistic machinery of the modern age. Pokémon envisions the world as if it were filled with kami that resemble the Greek gods of old. The creatures inhabit trees, rivers, and rocks, similar to the ancient Norse or Celtic myths that described a world teeming with fairies and elves. When you take the ancient myths that gave us fantastic animals such as centaurs and unicorns and place them within the animistic worldview of Shintoism, you start to see why the Eastern world of Pokémon feels both strange and familiar.
Part of Pokémon’s appeal goes back to childhood fascination with fairy tales, which we never fully outgrow. As G. K. Chesterton wrote:
“We all like astonishing tales because they touch the nerve of the ancient instinct of astonishment. When we are very young children we do not need fairy tales: we only need tales. Mere life is interesting enough.”
When my kids and I followed Pokémon tracks around the neighborhood in search for these mythical creatures, we noticed we were more aware of our surroundings. The bird that swooshed past us and alighted in a tree was more glorious than any Pidgey we found on the phone. I noticed three butterflies of different colors on my walk yesterday – insects I would have failed to marvel at had my senses not been heightened thanks to Pokémon Go.
The effect of fairy tales, Chesterton wrote, is to remind us that “this world is a wild and startling place, which might have been quite different, but which is quite delightful…”
“Fairyland is nothing but the sunny country of common sense… Old nurses do not tell children about the grass, but about the fairies that dance on the grass; and the old Greeks could not see the trees for the dryads.”
The Longings and Limits of a Game
Pokémon Go taps into our longing for unity in a fractured world. For a moment, we are together, sharing the same physical space and playing the same game.
Pokémon Go also taps into our longing for something beyond the flattened, rationalist society of our age. For a moment, we feel the magic of the old mythologies and long for something beyond this present world.
Of course, this is all just a game, and like all fads, its appeal will soon wear off. These myths do not reflect the biblical worldview. They give us a few moments of fun, but no promise for the future. No game can provide lasting community or eternal significance; only the gospel can do that.
But as missionaries in this time and place, we should have eyes wide open to the pressures people feel in this fractured and flattened world, so that we can better tell the better Story, which, in the words of C. S. Lewis, is “the myth that became fact.”
Trevin Wax is managing editor of The Gospel Project at LifeWay Christian Resources, husband to Corina, father to Timothy, Julia, and David. You can follow him on Twitter. Click here for Trevin’s full bio.
We all live for something. Some purpose statement hides beneath all our desires and decisions, whether we know it or not. We do everything we do out of love — for something or someone. The question is whether that purpose (or person) is worth all the time, money, and energy we’re spending.
Freedom and independence may be the purpose of choice among twentysomethings today. Clinical psychologist Meg Jay who focuses on young adults writes, “By the new millennium, only about half of twentysomethings were married by age thirty and even fewer had children, making the twenties a time of newfound freedom. . . . The twenties were now disposable years lubricated by disposable income” The Defining Decade).
The twenties have become this new kind of “paradise” in between childhood and real adulthood, when you can party hard, experiment with new things, and spend lots of money without feeling the consequences. We postpone becoming adults, or at least the responsibilities that come with being an adult, in order to enjoy a decade of gratification without boundaries and autonomy without expectations — a second, more sophisticated round of playschool before “real life” begins.
Jay shows that while twentysomethings are living it up, everyone else is wishing they were in their twenties. Teenagers are acting like they are twenty-one, and more mature adults are dressing and getting surgery to look twenty-nine, again. The “freebie years,” as she calls them, seem to be what life is all about, the height and pinnacle of human existence.
The Quarter-Life Crisis
After years of counseling twentysomethings — the new kings and queens of our society — Jay finds most of them aimlessly wandering and wanting. She writes (and she is not a Christian), “The postmillennial midlife crisis is figuring out that while we were busy making sure we didn’t miss out on anything, we were setting ourselves up to miss out on some of the most important things of all” — it’s the new paradise lost.
She watches single men and women in their twenties ride all the rides, satisfying every impulse and craving, and then crash into reality, wishing they had lived for something more fulfilling, safer, and more significant.
In the end, they weren’t really living for freedom. They were using freedom to live for themselves. And the more recklessly and desperately they lived for themselves, the more miserable they made themselves. The purposelessness celebrated on college campuses, and by Hollywood, may make for a great laugh and a good time, but it is an empty and short-lived reason to live. That kind of “freedom” enslaves us to ourselves, robs us of the life it advertises, and undermines the real reason we were made — to know and glorify God by enjoying him as our greatest treasure and ambition.
There’s an intense and exhilarating thrill in the freefall — but the parachute never deploys.
A More Mature Tragedy
Psychologists like Jay observe, and warn against, the devastating trend: You’re going to regret this in your thirties and forties! It’s true, and she offers lots of good advice about making decisions now with our future in mind. Yet her message ultimately just relocates our little paradise to a different decade — one with a more fulfilling, better paying job, a good-looking and productive spouse, two children, financial security, and the freedom to enjoy our more mature hobbies.
We rightly trade away the twentysomething playschool tragedy, but only for a comfortable fortysomething middle-class tragedy. David Platt describes the same disaster when he says, “We live decent lives in decent homes with decent jobs and decent families as decent citizens” (Radical, 105). John Piper offers a similar warning:
If you could just have a good job with a good wife, or husband, and a couple of good kids and a nice car and long weekends and a few good friends, a fun retirement, and a quick and easy death, and no hell — if you could have all that (even without God) — you would be satisfied. That is a tragedy in the making. A wasted life. (Don’t Waste Your Life)
We think we’re living the American Dream, but we’re entertaining and cushioning ourselves to death. We’re wasting the one precious life God has given us to live.
While the world wastes away life — at twenty, or thirty, or seventy-five — we can live a different story about better news and a greater treasure. While everyone else is spending everything they have on something that will not last, we can quietly and confidently invest the little bit we have here into the infinite wealth we will inherit in heaven.
Platt says, “If Jesus is who he said he is, and if his promises are as rewarding as the Bible claims they are, then we may discover that satisfaction in our lives and success in the church are not found in what our culture deems most important but in radical abandonment to Jesus.”
The apostle Paul writes, “You yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, ‘There is peace and security,’ then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape” (1 Thessalonians 5:2–3). All that looked so peaceful, secure, fun, and comfortable turned to hell in a moment — like being thrown into labor, but you had no idea you were even pregnant. And it never ends. You never escape.
But you don’t have to live for a peace and security that evaporates when you need it most. Paul continues,
Let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Thessalonians 5:6–9)
It may look like we’re missing out for a few years here, but one day the whole world will see that we are the safest, richest, and happiest people who have ever lived, a people living for King Jesus.
Spend your twenties, forties, and eighties searching for more of that stability, freedom, and joy.
Thumb author marshall segal
Marshall Segal (@MarshallSegal) is a writer and managing editor at desiringGod.org. He’s the author of Not Yet Married: The Pursuit of Joy in Singleness & Dating (2017). He graduated from Bethlehem College & Seminary. He and his wife Faye live in Minneapolis
The new church building in Balloch is now ready for use. We are delighted to invite you to come along and have a look round before the building is formally opened.
Saturday, 12th March, between 10.00am and 2.00pm
Come and enjoy a cup of tea/coffee/juice and have a look around the new church building in Wellside Road, Balloch
As a church community, have been meeting in Balloch Hall and Culloden Academy for the past twenty years so we are thrilled to be able to continue in this area. Our vision is to provide a church centre at the heart of the community that will help serve the needs of local people today and for many years to come.
Do come along on the Open Day and we also look forward to welcoming you to the services and events in the church. The first service will be on the Sunday after this open day (the 13th of March)
Some more details on the open day can be seen in this flyer
On the 13th we’ll be having a morning service, at 10:30am, led by our pastor Kenny Ross, and in the evening, we are pleased to have Ronnie Heyboer, a missionary from the Living Waters Village Project sharing with us. Some more information on the evening service can be found here:
So we have a new name!
Culloden-Balloch Baptist Church.
Our church meeting decided on this as the favoured option for us to adopt us we prepare to take up residence in our new building, the keys of which we should be getting later this week. So we have a new name and a new building!!
Our aim both through the name change and the building build, is one and the same; to exist for the good of those outside of ourselves all for the glory of Christ. By adding ‘Balloch’ and retaining ‘Culloden’ we hope to show both respect for our past and intent to the people of Balloch.
Now the bible actually tells u to make sure that, well let me allow you to read it for yourself, “A good name is to be chosen… ‘ Prov 22:1. Now of course that is not talking about what we ‘call’ someone/thing. It is referring to your character. So how interested are you in your character? God is after a renovation of your character. He wants it to begin to reflect His Son’s. My hope is that as a church we’ll have a name that honours Christ. A name for being loving, kind, patient, long-suffering, hopeful, powerful and faithful. As we’ve been seeing in our morning service studies in Ephesians, God has exactly the same plan for us!
Kenny Ross (pastor)