Kids, Teens, Worship, and Tech

I’ve been thinking and writing about technology and how it affects worship for quite a number of years. When I wrote a series about ‘online church’ and the importance of in-person worship during COVID, one of my main concerns was about what this time was doing to the discipleship of young people. (Yes, it always comes back to: “Think of the children!”)

Especially in my post, “Are the Kids Really Fine?”, I tried to express the significance of the ubiquity of social media and online streaming for people born during or after, say, the mid-1990s. This is the most important generational divide, in my opinion. Those who were formed in their Christian faith as children or as adults before the advent of streaming and social media are somewhat able to navigate the newly “technologized” way of connecting with God and with others as just a slightly more convenient and slightly less satisfying version of their old way. For younger people, this is all that they have known.

I used to regularly share posts on this blog that contained four to seven links of other readings/listenings/viewings that I found interesting—kind of a substitute for instant sharing on social media. I still accumulate readings to share with specific people in my Bookmarks, but maybe I’ll start sharing more now that I’m serving as a pastor. Anyway, here are some interesting items inspired by desire to see families navigate the threat that “online” poses to their discipleship.

Liturgy is for Kids: Or, Your Kids Don’t Need Pop Worship

Podcast: Mortification of Spin: Metaverse Church

The Light Phone — An interesting product! (Disclosure: I do not own or endorse this product.)

Podcast: Felicia Wu Song on the Perils of Digital Discipleship

The Medium Is the Menace: Ubiquitous digital media offer potent rewards—but at the price of eroding our sensory and social capacities.

Taking the Postman Pledge: Neil Postman’s message could save children from the worst effects of technology.

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Advent Sermon: “Trading Away Our Glory” (Gen 1:26–31; 2:7; 3:1–11)

This is the audio (37:57, 26.3 MB) of a sermon preached at Center Church (EPC) of Grove City, PA, on November 27, 2022. The main texts are Genesis 1:26–31; 2:7; and 3:1–11. You can also watch the service on YouTube.

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Changes to Blogging and Media Sharing

New links to follow my work:

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As I have shared in the last few months, I am transitioning from serving as a professor who is involved in ministry part-time, to serving as a full-time pastor in a church. This is a huge change for me, but I’m excited to embrace this new challenge.

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Moving Again!

The last time I gave a significant update here was in June. That seems like an eternity ago, so it seems like a good time to share about our situation.

Since we moved back from Lithuania to the US on August 15, we have been staying with Corrie’s mom in eastern Pennsylvania (Perkasie). We’ve been reconnecting with old friends and readjusting to life in the USA.

The biggest news was shared in my previous sermon post: on September 18, the congregation of Center Church (EPC) in Grove City, PA officially voted to call me as pastor.

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Sermon: “I Am the Bread of Life” (John 6:25–71)

This is the audio (49:10, 38.0 MB) of a sermon preached at Center Presbyterian Church (EPC) of Grove City, PA, on September 18, 2022. The main text is John 6:25–71. You can also watch the service on YouTube.

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Sermon: “We Are Members of One Another” (Ephesians 4)

This is the audio (37:24, 11.9 MB) of a sermon preached at Klaipėda Free Christian Church, on August 14, 2022. The main text is Ephesians 4.

The sermon was translated back-and-forth into Russian, for the benefit of Ukrainians who have joined our church since February. (Older Lithuanians in our congregation know Russian, and younger Lithuanians understand English.) I took this audio from my phone, which was in my breast pocket–so you might not hear Liubava’s translation. Since the scripture was up on the screen in English, I asked her to read in Russian–so you will need to use an English Bible to follow along. You can also watch the service on Facebook.

This was my final sermon as pastor of this church. We began attending briefly back in 2015, then again in 2017 when we returned to Lithuania. In 2020, the church council asked me to serve as co-pastor along with Modestas Gaubas, who is a bivocational pastor (as was I, since my main job was teaching at LCC). It was a bittersweet day, as you can imagine–sad to leave, but reflecting on the joy that God has given us through these relationships.

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Does the Old Testament Prescribe a ‘State’?

Numerous texts in the Bible speak about the need for civil authority, and/or presume that a state exists. But does the Bible’s normative teaching prescribe something like a state government, or rather mere governance of some kind?

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Travels and Transitions

It’s been a very long time since I’ve shared a personal update on this blog–or really, anything other than sermons and links to publications. I suppose I have been so busy living life–surviving, if not always flourishing–that I have not always had time to process and share. Academic writing and preaching is a big part of how I process and share these days–and I have been doing plenty of that.

But it seems an appropriate time to share some important news, and what the past few months have looked like, and what we’re looking ahead to in the months to come.

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Sermon: “Those Who Sigh and Groan” (Ezekiel 8-9)

This is the audio (51:13, 46.8 MB) of a sermon preached at Kaunas Free Christian Church, on May 15, 2022. The main text is Ezekiel 8:1-15 and 9:1-11. An excerpt:

Our passage for today is one that has been rattling around in my head for the last two years, and I’m finally collecting my thoughts to say something about it. It’s kind of like an expose, a bit of “hidden camera footage” that shows what the religious leaders of Israel were doing in secret, in the Jerusalem temple, in its last days before it was destroyed. They thought that they could use their power to do whatever they wanted, and that no one would see—including God. We will see from this passage that God does act to stop those in power from abusing their power in secret. And there is a message for us who don’t always have “inside access”: how are we supposed to react to corruption? And, how can we look to Jesus as an example of how to live faithfully in a sinful world?

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New Article in Journal of Media and Religion

I’m pleased to announce the publication of an essay, coauthored with Jon Radwan of Seton Hall University, in the Journal of Media and Religion: “YouTubing Eudaimoniae? Pachamama, Inspiration, and Manipulation in Platonic and Biblical Rhetorics.”

Here is the abstract:

Rhetorical functions of media are outlined in the Platonic and Biblical traditions and applied to 2019ʹs “Pachamama YouTube iconoclepsis (“image-stealing”) controversy. Where post-Enlightenment theory brackets or dismisses spiritual communication, pre-modern frames offer clear heuristics and vocabulary for interpreting mediated religious protest. In reaction to a culture of sophistic manipulation, Plato envisioned ideals approached via cooperative dialectic. Psychogogy, leading souls, requires artists and orators adapting true, beautiful, and good ideals for people in their care. Plato uses a pharmacological metaphor to show how art and public discourse can harm and diminish, or heal and restore, spiritual wellbeing, and social eudaimonia. In contrast to Plato, the Biblical tradition cedes invention to God, whose message is shared with passion and urgency to guide people away from evil toward flourishing. The culmination of prophetic communication is the Incarnation: Jesus gives humanity direct contact with divine truth and light, and upon His resurrection the Holy Spirit inspires missionary outreach. Today YouTube activists engage power dynamics within sacred space and imagery to attempt Church reforms.

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