I firmly believe that humanity is no better or worse that it used to be….I think humans like to believe the myths of “human progress” or “the world ending” because its hard to find purpose if we aren’t running towards or away from something. Of course, what we should be running towards is God and what we should be running away from is evil. Also, we tend to look a “the world” from our own individual perceptive and judge it accordingly (when we’re up the world is better, when we’re down the world is ending) However, I think that we are human, we have ups, and downs. We have flaws and we have gifts. It may be easier to believe in a change, but I think that that truth is humanity will always remain human, and part of humanity is that need for relationship, the need for love in our lives.
Alright, after reading a disturbing post about the Board of Pensions (disturbing because not 6months ago the board of pensions came to Albany, NY and personally guaranteed us our pensions were fine) I am beginning to understand the rising healthcare cost for pastors with children (from %35 to %65). Seeing as I have three Preschoolers–this is a worry (read more about this http://www.christiancentury.org/blogs/archive/2012-11/changes-pcusa-dues-structurenbsp)
Then there is the whole CIF/PIF thing, I recently came from a discussion where a church bypassed the formal process and are looking to hire a Baptist minister who holds some ministerial exp and an Associates degree…
Then there’s Sandy (enough said)
And a relative of one of my Pakistani congregants just learned her missional job is going to be cut off and she is going to be sent back to Pakistan, oh and by the way she’s a Christian Minister so guess what there is a death threat against her! The following pretty much sums up her status
Can I just let out a general ARGH?
Here’s what I think
1. Restart, Rethink, Reform
We as a church are failing to reform fast enough. We are failing to connect to my generation, and we are failing to help those who need it
Here’s what we should do
a. Help students with their Loans: the pastors, the congregants, the children of members, complete strangers. If Jesus preaches FORGIVENESS of DEBTS (yes, I went all caps on you) we need to do it.
b. Educate, Educate, Educate: If our way of doing theology (in the Presbyterian and most Protestant churches) then College loans are not only up our alley, but education is too. How can we do more? What classes can we offer the community? What knowledge do we have that we can share? And we should be doing it for free (Take that for ministry)
c. CIF and PIFs are TOO SLOW. They suck the life out of the Pastor Nominating Committee–they are great visioning process but they are a lot of work, annoying and the potential pastor is stuck in a passive role (the pastor gets to be the girl HOPING the boy will as her out to the dance, very empowering for the congregation, not great shakes for the pastor). Plus this is not the only church who tried to skip the process, mine did right before me, and I bet every Presbytery has a recent case of this (let me know if you have) this is a symptom of the problem.
d. Co-Pastor all the way. Jesus sent out all of his ministers in pairs, and yet we have this weird-thing-we-call-normal the solo pastorate. Here’s the deal. Give both pastor’s 20hrs (assuming its a fulltime positiong) give both pastors healthcare coverage (yes, I know its a cost, but we should be creative and find ways to do it) and relieve the burden and loneliness of pastors. Plus we cut our unemployed number in half—I think there are something like 300 jobs for the 1000 pastors in search of a position. Not cool.
e. Plant, develop, etc. Ok so 10,001 worship communities was launched but the website has ALMOST NOTHING ON IT (Sorry this seems to be another Cap-worthy remark). What are we doing about that? Do people outside GA know about this? How about people outside the Presbyterian church? Are there grants? THis seems to be a potential risk-taking and exciting venture with almost nothing behind it. (Who is the point person for this anyway?)
f. Be Kid-Friendly for reals. Where are the children in all of this? Do you relegate them to the youth group, do they leave service, are they cutely put up in the beginning of service? We need children, but we need them to propagate what we have. What do children today need? How can we serve that? How can we value children for who they are now instead of who they will become (ps most of this is from the Christian Ed dept at PTS ie Osmer, Dean, Cady and Douglass).
g. Screw pensions. Ok, not for those who have been planning for them and are over the age of 40, but if they aren’t working maybe we should (and I mean we as the United States and the PCUSA as well) own up to the fact that they aren’t going to work anymore instead of cutting healthcare to promise money that we can no longer promise. If my choice is healthcare for my 3 boys now or pensions later, I’m choosing now, because I have got to take care of my children first. Pensions are secondary.
OR screw healthcare–maybe Obamacare is the way to go, I’m not sure, but we need to respond to somethings
h. and as for Sandy and Pakistan, here are all of these very personal/internal things I have to deal with and there are the two clear missional things that I should be dealing with, and I barely have the time and energy to keep up with my life, my revolving door, my neverending debt, my generational difference with 90% of PCUSA and the mainline church in general to do the work that comes at these very important times of crises.
We need to Reform. I was hoping GA would talk about the young, homosexuality, pensions, hiring rates, CIFs and PIFs, children and the church, social media etc. in some way that felt like a forward motion–I am still unsure as to whether or not any progress was actually made
The call is out there, the new generation is working hard–help us along…( for more info on the generational divide read here.)
And then there are the (rare) churches who want a pastor to lead them into the 21st Century, to equip them to be ministers, to teach them not so that they are smarter but so their faith is deeper, who train others to do pastoral care, and who spend more time out in the community than in their church buildings. There are especially younger pastors who long to do this usually with great passion.
Ok, I guess that is debatable…I mean who else thinks that establishing a church through Sci Fi/Fantasy is their calling?
But often I think that this is the message I want to get out…I’m Christian, not Crazy.
Just because I believe in God
Just because I try (and fail and then try again) to put God’s love and hospitality into practice does not make me an extremist, bigot, loony or uneducated person. In fact it doesn’t make me liberal/conservative, rich/poor, smart/dumb, etc. That’s the point. Christianity is supposed to be noncontextual (for an ironic moment watch a pastor talk about how bigotry succeeds at being ultimately noncontexual as well http://gawker.com/5953357/missouri-pastors-fiery-speech-against-equal-rights-for-homosexuals-has-stunning-twist-ending)
Christianity should be without context. And when I say I’m Christian, I would love for that to mean that I think outside the box, not that I am stereotypical (cause I’m not)
When I say I’m Christian, that means that the most important thing to me is God’s graciousness, and when I look at the world, it is hard for me to think that we were a random happenstance of nature. And the fact that I was created and I, in turn, try to create things, is an important part to figuring out my life…
It does not mean I’m going to push my beliefs on you, that I hate everyone else out there or I’m going to be judgmental–it simply means that to me, God enriches my life….
That is all….
How can a pastor save a dying church??? read here to find out!
I’m going to go ahead and answer that question right now: No, she will not.
No amount of pastoral eloquence, organization, insightfulness, amicability, or charisma will take your congregation back to back to its glory days.
What then can your pastor do? She can make your board meetings longer with prayer and Bible study. She can mess with your sense of familiarity by changing the order of worship and the arrangement of the sanctuary. She can play those strange new songs and forget about your favorite old hymns. She can keep on playing those crusty old hymns instead of that hot new contemporary praise music. She can bug you incessantly about more frequent celebration of Communion. She can ignore your phone…
View original post 562 more words
Debt is a big problem for us. Even if you don’t personally have debt (hooray) the United States as a country walks around with billions of dollars in debt every day.
What does this mean to be in debt? I’ve decided it means that you are empty–you have are literally worth less than nothing when you are in debt. And here we are in debt.
If you’ve ever studied the book of Ruth there is a weird legalistic part at the end. Instead of an immediate happily-ever-after between Ruth and Boaz (I love that fact that she proposes to him, talk about being ahead of the times!) It basically has to do with the fact that if you take on Elimelech’s indebted land, then you can make it fruitful again. However, if you have a son by Ruth you are then beholden to that inheritence instead of you own. I think thats it. Honestly, scholars disagree. They aren’t really sure what all was meant, and when Ruth was written down it was already ancient history because the whole sandal thing had to be explained.
Anyway, what everyone agrees on is
A. Elimelech’s land had laid empty/fallow for many years and the debt on it had to be redeemed in order for it be planted again
B. Ruth was part of the deal, and Ruth was so obviously (at least as far as they knew in Biblical times) barren, because she didn’t have any previous children.
So here you go, empty land, empty family.
In many ways we the mainline church have the same problem with empty land–have you seen our crumbling-on-the-sale-block-only-six-people-attend-here churches? (the irony being that non-religious people are always sad to see churches close, what is that about anyway???)
Ok but without getting too tangential, we as a church are empty.
Then there’s me, well us, well my entire generation. I grew up during the boom years, I was told that as long as I work hard and do right things will work out for me. Yet here we are (and I speak from my personal experiences and those of my friends) struggling with debt, purpose and fulfillment.
Opportunities are so scarce for my generation, and many people have had to put off marriage, children, settling down or even being able to start their career due to the economy. Every single person I know has had to live off of their parents in some way, shape or form post college.
Married, single, graduate, post-graduate, post-baccelerate, even those with children have had to get help, move in with their parents or follow their spouse across the country only to work a menial job hopefully sort of in their field.
So what is it people want when they come to church?
They want somewhere, where they are no longer empty. They want somewhere where they can be fulfilled. And (more importantly) they don’t want to feel judged. Us Milleniumers, Boomerangers (because we return home), us zero-ers or whatever you want to call us feel the weight of our own emptiness.
All our hard work seems to be for naught, much of what we are characterized by is our selfishness our need to be special our consumerism etc.
I can say (in total biased opinion) that this is not true. We don’t all think we are special or well-deserved, we just hope we might be a little bit, and our experience of adulthood (do you know my second week of undergrad was 9/11/2001–my entire adulthood has been shaped by our post 9/11 world, whereas my entire childhood was pre-9/11).
Do you know what Young People think of when they think of church? Antigay (i.e. judgemental and bigotted). I cannot tell you how much this hurts me. No wonder people think church has nothing to offer, no wonder it seems nonsensical and out of date. People don’t associate church with love and service, but rather selfishness and closemindedness. Plus the church is trying to figure out how to bring people to the church, when instead we should be figuring out how to bring church to people.
So here we are, empty. What does it mean when we forgive our debts? What does it mean when God Fulfills God’s promises?
What does God offer us that is different from the regular activity?
Here is a need, plain and simple, for many “young people” and most people in general. A need to find fulfillment and worth outside of money, a way to struggle with debt and yet not to feel empty, and definition that exists outside the bounds of the day-to-day slog. So what is fulfillment, what is forgiveness. How does debt figure into all of this, and should the church heed this desperate call of the empty young professionals today, or do we continue to figure out how to survive without worrying about these problems!!!
I feel a VERY strong call here to do something about this, what if the church stood in the way of debt, what if we showed how God fulfills us, what would happen then?
I am a graduate of Oberlin (yay Oberlin), and I loved (almost) every minute of it. But one of the things Obies love to do is take things apart. (Any other Obies feel free to chime in about this). In fact, sometimes we would move to “deconstructing” things so fast that I would feel like I didn’t even know how the thing was constructed in the first place (as an English Major my high school was highly lacking in Shakespeare, and I wanted to round my education out with him, however the only classes offered were about deconstructing what we supposedly had learned in high school).
Now as I get into ministry I hear a lot of talk about what this post-culture is going to do? Author Ross Douthat wrote an article about Can Liberal Christianity be saved? (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/15/opinion/sunday/douthat-can-liberal-christianity-be-saved.html) His conclusion was that” Today, by contrast, the leaders of the Episcopal Church and similar bodies often don’t seem to be offering anything you can’t already get from a purely secular liberalism. Which suggests that perhaps they should pause, amid their frantic renovations, and consider not just what they would change about historic Christianity, but what they would defend and offer uncompromisingly to the world.Absent such a reconsideration, their fate is nearly certain: they will change, and change, and die. (PS for a good response to this read http://www.patheos.com/blogs/livingaholyadventure/2012/07/can-liberal-christianity-be-saved-a-response-to-ross-douthat/)
However as I look at this world, I see that we are trying to construct a Post-Religious world (i.e. Spiritual not religious viewpoint that is so oft referenced). So the question comes, what does a post-church, post-christian, post-denominational (I am told by a good friend this is a move that the Bible belt is especially making) world. How do we post about our Post-world? (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Postchristianity)
Going forward I have to say that to me a post-religious world would look like the following
1) Where individuals ultimately choose to uphold each other as people, even when beliefs differ (perhaps what our Moderator and Vice Moderator were trying to model at GA before our Vice had to step down). Allowing Spiritual Practices to bring people together–>at least I think this is what some of the Spiritual people are trying to get at…
2) Where church isn’t made up of the “shoulds” of religion: church should have pews, church should include hymns, church should have Sunday School, but is instead moved by Holy Spirit to BE a faith community whenever and however that comes together….
3) Where the Faith of a group of people is ultimately used to empower those individuals who are powerless. What happens when powerless people come together? that’s right they become empowered If the church functions as a community builder grounded in the love of God, then we cannot help but support and empower each other to do new and wonderful things….
Places where this is overlooked today=basically everyone who is assigned an associate pastor (that is a rant yet to come)
Recently, these interactive boards have moved from the back of the broken pews to the corner of the sanctuary that we designated as a toddler area. (from a fellow pastor http://theresaecho.com/2011/04/18/interactive-toddler-boards/)
The College Age
The Young Adult (i.e. those in there 20s and 30s)
(you know those with young families who need babysitting or those who are still single and constantly on the move to find a job in the tough economy)
The Minorities: Racial, Ethnic and of course the poor
Thats right if your not a white middle class, middle aged American in many denominations your power is significantly less not only in society but in the church itself. Plus if you are not well-educated and don’t love words (say you learn by practice or are a visual learner) you probably won’t fit in well to the traditional Presbyterian service. (Does anyone else see something wrong with this?)
What would a service look like if it was regularly handed to these groups? What would faith look like if we went to where these people were?
You know what I think? I think that Ministry, True Ministry is to make FAITH ACCESSIBLE (that’s right, I put it in caps, that’s how serious I am). How do we make, not only our building, our worship and our activities accessible, How do we make our Faith Accessible. What does it mean that people identify Spirituality over religion or faith? I think its because Spirituality feels accessible. You can use what is comfortable to you, you can learn about it at your own pace, and your can connect with different people over different aspects of it even if you don’t agree completely with them (for the record I have both liberal and conservative friends).
So how can we do that for Faith?
I don’t know,
But let me remind you friends, that there is no resurrection without death!
Whether you consider this time the denominational pregnancy http://vimeo.com/25360983
or even if you think we are dying….http://treymorgan.net/17-signs-your-church-might-be-dying/
Either way, there is a rebirth a coming, the question is how will we access it?
(P.S. Giving Access is not the same as watering down faith, just so I’m clear on that!)
“I’ll warrant you’ll make plenty in it,” said Marilla. “I never saw your beat for making mistakes, Anne.”
“Yes, and well I know it,” admitted Anne mournfully. “But have you ever noticed one encouraging thing about me, Marilla? I never make the same mistake twice.”
“I don’t know as that’s much benefit when you’re always making new ones.”
“Oh, don’t you see, Marilla? There must be a limit to the mistakes one person can make, and when I get to the end of them, then I’ll be through with them. That’s a very comforting thought.”
I can still remember having a very “adult” conversation with my parents. It was one in which I must have been about 10, and my parents were telling me that I wasn’t perfect, and that I was going to have to live with myself. My response to this (because I knew no one could be perfect) was “I don’t want to be perfect, I just don’t want to make any mistakes!”
As Christians we have this ongoing struggle with perfection. On the one hand we want to be perfect, on the other part of being Christian (at least for me ) is admitting that we aren’t perfect. It is contending with our brokenness, and giving it up to God to be healed.
However, even though we know this about ourselves, I think that Christians often feel the mistaken need to pro-ject perfection. We want to look or at least seem perfect to everyone else. It’s as if our perfection reflects upon the perfection of God. If we aren’t perfect, then God isn’t perfect. If we don’t have all the answers, then God doesn’t have all the answers.
Instead of pointing towards God’s for answers, we rely upon ourselves or the “church” (i.e. that human conglomeration that we too often see as being the church) to be perfect/have the answers.
That’s where pastors mess up too right? Pastors feel that they have to be perfect, and instead of being open about their faith and their brokenness and talking about where they meet, Pastors try to be perfect, hide their mistakes/failings (which often leads to a whole nasty secret double life). Too often pastors skip their own confessions–of both faith and doubt, and then the quagmire’s come
So we are back to the perfection and mistakes. It is important to strive towards perfection, but to also rely on God on the source of all perfection. And even when I think that I know my way to God, it is important not to project that as the only way to God.
Too often, I think that Church is shown as a place for “perfect” people or (worse) people who think they are perfect. Too often Church is seen as the place where all of our answers are provided. After all, church is not the place to give standardized tests–God answers each of us personally and individually….
When, in actuality. God is a mystery, the church doesn’t know how everything works (Trinity, anyone? Or how about that Virgin Birth thing?) The church should be the A number 1 place to go when you AREN’T Perfect, it should be THE place to go when you have questions, and it should be the surrenduring of your mistakes and imperfections to God so that God is the one we are relying on to “project the right image” not humanity or the church in itself…..
Why did Jonah run away?
To me, this is the question of change that the church forever faces.
Item 1: Jonah was called by God (scary enough right?)
Item 2: Jonah was called to give bad news….
Item 3: Jonah was called to give bad news to people he didn’t like, and they probably didn’t like him either
Item 4: Jonah was asked to tell the truth/be a prophet.
Prophecy is a very scary gift, most of us run away from prophecy. Why? Because prophecy is foreseeing the future both as is and as it could be. Prophecy is envisioning the world from both our and God’s perspective and then giving the leaders/movers/matriarchs and patriarchs a choice.
And the choice, now the choice is the issue.
So often the religious message comes across as conform or die,……
or maybe its change or die…
Funny isn’t it? The choice which once seemed so certain is suddenly difficult. Who want to conform–who wouldn’t rather be Spiritual but not Religious, after all what is religion if it isn’t another way to conform…another way of predicting who is “in” and who is “out”…its all about getting saved after all isn’t it
On the other hand, who wants to change. Hasn’t what we’ve been doing good enough…and even if it hasn’t been, we are used to it; better the devil we know and all that…..
Except neither of these are what faith is about. Later Jonah says that he ran away because he knew that God would show mercy and he basically didn’t want God to have mercy on his enemies–why should he bother.
In a time when religion is viewed as primarily judgmental, I have to ask what is it the church is running away from today? What are we Christians afraid of…
Is it conformity?
Is it change?
Or is it God’s grace and mercy? Is it that God’s plan for us requires flexibility and grace (an ability to dance through life so to speak)—flexibility and grace which are neither choice to conform or to change, but rather the ever-dance in between.
PS: Notice that to run away from one’s call is to run away from God!!!
(Note: all italics are sarcastic)