So…#farmersmarket @ #church=>Results

This is my third post in our Farmer’s Market Series

Why Farmer’s Market?

How Farmer’s Market?

Five years into running a farmer’s market we have the following results.

Neighborhood

The most often comment we get is that the “Farmers Market brings people together in a way they haven’t before.” We definitely see the community now. We love getting to know all the people int he neighborhood. Since getting people to church is not the goal (serving them is), we get to know many of our Jewish and Catholic friends as well.

Many people WALK to our farmer’s market, which is superfun

We have regulars! Last year we had about 4 Tuesdays where it didn’t rain at all, and yet approximately 400 people attend a week. Our word is spreading via natural talk, advertising and increasing our sign circumference in a considered fashion.

 

Community

We have about 20 groups that meet in our church building. Including over a dozen AAs, some other churches,  the playgroup and the nursery school students, the Neighborhood Association, Choirs, etc. The Farmer’s Market was definitely when some of these communities started to connect with one another, and us. The communication improved, and the church worked to serve as a community of these communities.

scrabbledisparateShared

Building a Community

The biggest result of the farmers market is difficult to communicate, because it is so huge. We have in essence started to build a community.

Starting with the Farmers: We set an amazing tone through two things 1. a Civility clause in the contract 2. our customer service. We required civility, but we also modeled it, lending chairs, helping farmers put up and take down their tents, asking what they needed, you know helping them out. We have a very small community market, but we are told ours is like no other. People are not mean-spirited or pushy, our vendors built a community, trading tips and goods, being genuinely kind. We are like no other market in this way.

Building more communities: Since the Farmer’s Market started, we have learned to be savvy about building events and communities off the market. We have offered exercise (for children and adults), conducted chicken BBQs both the week before and after the market, advertise our children’s events (ex: breakfast with Santa, Easter egg hunt). We have also art spaces including a community visual art show, putting on tiny theater plays, and paying local musicians a small fee to play at the market. We do this, because we want to support the community and build it up in as many ways as possible.expanded

Farmer’s Market Community: And of course we’ve built a community of people who want to go to a neighborhood farmers market. Some of them walk their children around, some of them drop by just to get dinner, some of them like to get out and chat, and some of them are hardcore local/organic followers. There is a lot of natural communication that goes on in a Farmers Market (what corn isn’t available all year? Strawberries are more expensive because of the frost). When you know your farmer you appreciate where your food comes from and how much work it takes to get it, and you start to consider what you consume in a slightly different way.

Millennials & Silent Generation: One of the best things about communities–and churches–are when multiple generations get together (its one of the church’s strengths in fact). The Farmers Market draws together millennials who are invested in cooking, bodies and the health of the planet, and the silent generation whose families often were farmers, who know how to and love cooking, and who remember and value farming.

Community Gardens: We have a small bin out at our Farmers Market. It doesn’t seem to get much every week, but two years ago 100 pounds of fresh vegetables were collected to redistribute in the urban food deserts, last year over 200 pounds were collected. This is the seed of extending to the community.

 

Church

Our church has changed. Always a community invested in serving our neighbor. Through the farmers market, we have found energy & purpose. We value the community and being in the community. We are shifting our perspective from sometime landlord with ministry to community participant and incubator. People have noticed, and our church has seen some growth. (We are teeny-tiny remember). We did not do a farmer’s market to grow the church, we did it to serve the community. This has made all the difference. We continue to strive to figure out how to serve the community, and if sometimes people find their way from the parking lot to the sanctuary, we are doubly blessed as a congregation of servants.

How to Farmers Market

When we started our Farmers Market we knew two things.

  1. We have a parking lot
  2. We wanted to be there to help and “man” a table

See the post on Why the church decided our ministry would be a farmers market

We had to figure out logistics: Time, Duration, Placement of Vendors, Parking, Cost, etc.

We started visiting Farmer’s Markets in the area. We kept on a lookout for when other farmers markets are…

TIME:

We decided right away, no to Saturday. Too much “competition” probably not enough vendors, plus I couldn’t commit to spending every Saturday at church.

We picked Tuesdays, there seemed to be different markets on other days, but none on Tuesdays (by the way, multiple markets nearby seem less important, just that they are not on the same DAY in the same Area). Plus we rent out our church a lot and Tuesday was an “open” time.

We decided to do 3-6pm. We wanted to hit the afterwork crowd, and we are nearby the state offices that begin releasing at 3:30, and a elementary school.

Duration:

The First summer we were only open June-Sept. The next year we expanded from May-October. The fall months are GREAT for veggies, the early months are better for craft vendors: people tend to buy from them only once and they aren’t spending much on food yet.

Cost:

Our parking Lot is free…so our cost is minimal. We decided the first year to invest some church money, but also to promise that all the dues will go back into advertising for the Farmer’s Market to get it off of the ground.

We decided to ask $25 to hold a spot, and $100 total for the four months. Costs were purposely lower than other markets. This was good, because we soon learned that farmers spend a LOT of money to get to the market. Then we made signs, lots of signs to put up around the city. We put them up every Tuesday and then took them back down (you avoid a lot of regs that way, plus people tend to notice moving signs more).

Farmers:

Getting Farmers to agree to try us out was HARD. (Nowadays we can give them two weeks to try us out). We weren’t established, and no one knew anything about it. The Farmers Market circuit is a tight one. Everyone knows each other.

I and a co-chair took turns calling everyone. We would tell them our principles (we will spend your fees on advertising), our location (all the good parts), and who else we had on the line (translation, they haven’t said yes, but they might).

We visited lots of Farmers Markets, took lots of names, and called lots of people for months. I think we started in late February.

Then finally, one farmer, Farmer Jon said yes. Once we said “Farmer Jon confirmed and …..so and so and so and so are on the line” everyone else started signing up. We opened with a couple of food vendors, a couple of crafters, and three farmers (Farmer Jon never did show up…but he did his part).

Logistics

We made a contract, we included the website with all of the regulations telling people they were responsible to abide by it.

We told people they had to call us if they weren’t coming.

We gave them timelines and fees

And we made them promise to realize that “This is a church” and we “expect civil behavior”

We got signatures.

Then we set up the farmers in the middle of the parking lot, staked off a walking area with cones, and got ready for the first day.

Grand Opening

We invited the neighbor, we cut ribbons.

We papered invites on the cars who came for AA, other churches, most of the people who used the building. (We did the annoying under the windshield thing, but only ONCE for each group)

We personally dropped flyers in the local neighborhood–abiding by the mailbox rules (mostly flyers can’t go into mailboxes, I think door mailslots are the exception)

We invited the mayor and local small news stations.

200 People came for the grand opening!!!

Next post will be about the ONGOING effects and results of what started out as “just” a farmer’s market.

 

Our own personal Logo!!Farmers market logo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why a Farmer’s Market?

We are blessed to open our 5th Farmer’s Market season this summer. A Farmer’s Market that we put out for our community. A Farmers Market that the church’s volunteers run from May to October.

So why a Farmer’s Market? Where is the discipleship in this? and how exactly is this a ministry?

New Covenant Presbyterian Church spent a lot of time trying to participate within the neighborhood. We wanted to be a part of what was going on. With approximately 15 community groups meeting in our building, we felt the disconnect. Many people will come to these gatherings, but nothing sponsored by the church.

We got to work to be a part of the community. Some events were short: a one day electronic recycling drive, a Mendelssohn concert and Ice Cream Social, a Dove Nominated Gospel Concert. We started some long term things too…we opened a free weekly playgroup.. We organized and oversaw an ongoing clothing exchange.

We looked at our resources, we looked at our strengths. We are place that is easy to gather at, we have a large parking lot. We are close to major highways.

How about a Farmer’s Market? Which we committed to do, as long as we remembered WHY we want to do this. To participate within the neighborhood.

To be a part of the community.

To be PRESENT. We committed to help to set up, to serve, to strive for a caring environment built on balance and needs (as opposed to being purely profit driven).

We will then sit at the church table and HELP people. Answer questions and LISTEN carefully to what is being said so we could get reacquainted with the community.

We did the work (See the upcoming post on HOW a Farmer’s Market) for details. By the Grand Opening close to 200 people came. Which was a huge number for a 50-60 person church.

By the middle of the summer we clarified our why into one phrase.

Won’t You Be Our Neighbor?

holyappreciation.jpg

Because we want to be your neighbor, we want to be a community-building congregation, we want to be a community that supports communities.

The ministry of presence, of listening of neighboring is a part of who we are and what we do today! We look forward to our 5th rendition of this particular ministry of Farmers Market.

 

 

 

Too Much of a Good thing

This is basically a status update on my Church’s Won’t You Be Our Neighbor Program:

Its official,

My church is in transition from Family Size to Pastoral Size

In short we are going from teensy-weensy to tiny sized congregation

and our farmer’s market has 100 people more a week averaging at about 350 ppl a week

holy

Let there be wild rejoicing

But….its work. We are going to have to stretch and grow with these changes. I’m going to have to pray about how better to connect spiritually to the community, I need to discern how to provide the support that my (now overworked) volunteers need.

I compared it on Sunday to the cup that God promises us to be overflowing. Have you ever tried to drink out of a cup that is filled to the tippy-top? Its tricky and messy….but important

Holy Spirit
Holy Spirit

I think we are going to do it. We are going to be a church that is an actual community center.

I just have no idea how………….yet 😉

#nextchurch Farmer’s Market: building local ministry

Sadly I recently looked thru my posts and found that my original farmer’s market post has disappeared (oh no!) So I will have to rewrite it with a broader perspective.

The church was called to local mission: most of the 40-odd faithful adults had volunteered regularly at homeless centers, hospitals and to knit/sew for the needy. The question was, how to do it? As an elder said “I don’t even think people know we are here” so we brainstormed…..

The church did a lot of events. A lot of, traditional events. Things like a Strawberry Festival and Choir Concerts. Things like Clothing Exchanges and Playgroups. None of them seemed to really take off…people came to these events, but not as many as the church hoped. See, the church had discerned that their call was for local mission, but we were having trouble connecting to the neighborhood. Our best moniker was “the church with all those AAs” our worst was “the one with the chain up” So the church tried all these events, and immediately named them to be failures.

The church was wrong though, these events weren’t failures, they were successes–if you looked at them the right way.

The Ice Cream Social  didn’t get a lot of people coming, but we served ice cream, showed the Nursery School’s artwork, plus got a couple of homeless people off the street for a few hours.

The Praise Inc Revival Concert was difficult I had to go to some kind of meeting (I forget what) and arrived late, when I walked in I was told “no one came” <–people did come, about 45, and what was really cool was that about 1/3rd were from the church, 1/3rd were from another worshipping community within our church and 1/3rd were from the community.

The clothing exchange was a lot of work, but it was cool because it was a ministry for everyone (not just the “needy”). Those who sorted the clothing found a lot of things for themselves and others (haha) and plus we started to get some regular ladies who dropped by to check out what we had.

The free playgroup didn’t have a lot of steady people but hey 1. it was drop in 2. a lot of people came until they found a job, and it was a great way to get to know the neighborhood if you were new in town.

The real issue, of course, was that we weren’t getting new members, which I (constantly) reminded our members, was not our goal.

Our goal was to get to know the community, to provide space for them to gather and to use our eminently well placed church that happened to have an awesome parking lot. (Of course we were doing other technical things too).

Then a couple from the church and said, What about a farmer’s market? We have a good parking lot.

Session agreed, and within session we outlined our goals which were to

1) Get to know the neighborhood

2) Help local farmers

3) Not have ulterior motives (or at least try not to)…this was not for money or members, it was for the community….In fact session maturely agreed that we would charge Farmers money to hold them accountable, but all the money would go back into the market.

We researched the other church farmer’s market, we went to big and small farmer’s markets, we looked up rules and regulations, we sent out letters and then we called & called & called & called the farmers until finally someone agreed to do it and all the other farmers (small world eh?) jumped in as soon as 1 person committed.

We plotted out the parking lot, we advertised and made signs and got ready for our grand opening.

We had well over 200 people! 200 people!

And afterwards we worshiped together and took apart all the things that helped to our success! We literally put each thing that we thought contributed upon a building block and then we took all the blocks and “built up” into what was now the farmer’s market!

And sure enough the congregation finally saw what I had discerned, those past events weren’t failures they were warmups!

During these events we learned about

1)How to work together; After throwing so many small events we had a pretty good idea who we were and what our skills are (hospitality, organizer, motivator, builder, community contact, etc. )

2) timing :how long things should be, when people got out of work

3) media: how do we publicize things online? What kind of signs get noticed? How can we tell our friends?

4) Events; small events lead to big ones, since we started to have events, people had been starting to notice us as being active and involved

5) People: We saw people from everywhere! People from the choir concerts, people from the praise inc. revival, people from the clothing exchange and the playgroup, heck we even saw people from our nursery school (which has been running for 40yrs, but like most church schools is viewed as separate from the church)

What a success, and we realized, all of those events were successful, and they built off of the farmer’s market.

So we kept building. We created a program called “Won’t You Be Our Neighbor?” in which all the events under those headings were purely to bolster and minister to the neighborhood so we could get to know them better.

Under this heading–We did a Trunk or Treat at the end of the Farmer’s Market for Halloween and we added a Chicken BBQ as a fundraiser (which isn’t really with no ulterior motives, but we were transparent about that we wanted your money for a sound system and since you drove thru our parking lot customers weren’t afraid we are trying to steal their souls), we did Charlie Brown Christmas in December and hosted over 100 nonchurch parents and children who watched it. Last summer we included Charity Yoga where the proceeds went to the Presbyterian Disaster Fund. We built a success!

We are still building. This has become a foundational ministry, it has honed our mission statement to one line “Won’t You Be Our Neighbor?” Its become a joyful duty for the 12 some volunteers to work EVERY week for 4-5hrs for 4 months, it has become an identifier for our church “the one with the farmer’s market.” Enrollment for nursery school is up, the community comes together, and we truly are starting to get to know our neighborhood, from the farmers to the crafters to the performing artists to the customers. This will be our 3rd year doing the farmer’s market, we are the most successful one in the city limits, our vendors love us, and we have expanded even moreso. its a beautiful day for a neighbor!

And that is how our true local ministry was born!

(for more info about what I learned as a minister for my context click here)

Food Tripping: Church & Food

If you have any question about what kind of person Jesus is, remember this, his ministry began and ended with food! It started with the wedding at Cana and Ended with the Last Supper

John 2

New International Version

2 On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.”

“Woman,[a] why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My hour has not yet come.”

His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons.[b]

Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim.

Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.”

They did so, and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside 10 and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.”

11 What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.

Food is good, it is one of the few things we do that is both necessary for our very existence, and pleasurable at the same time. Whenever I worry about who God is, I remember that God invented chocolate….what kind of God creates so many different foods with so many varieties in the world? I’m afraid to say if humans created food we would have created one substance that is of some nutritional value, and bland. Our God is more creative than that.

In my family we have something called food tripping, where you describe a food you love so much you space out from remembering it….

In fact, just one food can elevate an entire meal. Its likely your favorite restaurant isn’t really your favorite because everything tastes good there, but rather because they serve your favorite food. (I’m actually a sucker for either awesome bread or desserts) For example when I make pizza if I can have fresh basil or fresh mozerella the pizza tastes better–all it takes is one good ingredient to elevate the entire pizza 🙂

Recently there has been a growing fascination to where food comes from, whether it is local or organic, how it is processed, and lets not forget the Food Network. The source of our Food is compelling.

The reason why we are so fascinated with food, is that the more we know the food’s story, the better it tastes! We take pleasure in things that are creative acts. Things that are unique. This is why my grandmother’s bisqick coffee cake and my father’s bread taste different than any other versions of this food (even though, both recipes are available to everyone). Knowing that your food came from the local farm via the local farmer’s market, learning about food makes it taste better.

Now imagine that you are at a wedding and you get Jesus wine. A wine that serves to both elevate the entire meal but also just tastes better because its from JESUS! The source is good, therefore the food is good. Isn’t the spirit of the meal half of how a meal tastes anyway?

What if we thought about churches more as meals than programs. What if we tried to serve up our favorite pieces of worship–1 or 2 things, with Jesus as the source. What if instead of trying to offer a buffet of everything (or even the most modern whatevers) we served a nourishing meal with the hospitality that is in Christ’s spirit, one that we can offer in JOY!

After all, this is a meal we are celebrating, its abundance, its being drunk on the Holy Spirit, its understanding that the invitation is from Christ, and no other can make it better.

I think if we talked more about the source of our nourishment, and if we served the love with which it was made, church will be transformed from a boring form of sustenance that simply gives us the basic nourishment we need, to one where JESUS gives us the SPIRITs and we are invited to CELEBRATE THE LOVE TOGETHER.

How wonderful that would be!

PS Check out this Ted Talk There is some interesting claims about the creative act of humanity and how the creative act is what makes art valuable (ie why we like originals more than copies). i.e. Creativity and Relationship is what makes things pleasurable for us. We all know God is THE creator, making each of us a unique work of art, and we are invited to be co-creators with him. What kind of creative food can we serve up in church these days!!!!

“I don’t think it’s going to work….

“I don’t think that’s going to work” This remark was not made as a criticism, but as a statement of what this person saw as the facts of the situation.

“I don’t think people are going to let go”

“Well, that is what we are going to have to learn” I responded

Ultimately we discussed the matter a little more and it ended with the remark “I don’t think people are going to change”

To which I replied “I have to believe they can, or I can’t be a pastor–I have to believe people will change for the better an learn to work together, otherwise what am I doing here?”

Ah, Truth!

What controversial issue was I discussing? Something about technology or homosexuality, something to do with theology or principles? Some issue about the order of worship or where church takes place or who is sitting in what pews (these issues are so often where the rubber hits the road in ministry)

Nope:

Name: Pastor Katy

Quest: To minister to the body of Christ so that we can build the Kingdom of God

Current Mission: To get people to share in the leadership of the Farmer’s Market.

That’s it, the issue is the people who ran the farmer’s market last year have some very important grandparenting duties this summer, plus it was a super-duper-success last year

So I told them, I wanted to put two people in charge of the Farmer’s Market in June, July  and August (with me to open and close in May and Sept/Oct). I started out by noting that

a. delegating is harder work than doing it yourself

b. people are not going to be doing things exactly as we want them

c. BUT its important that people are invested.

Here is the test of ministry, not on theology or worship but politics. How do we work together as a community–but I have said it before and I’ll say it again. I believe the church exists ultimately as community builders–that is true https://i0.wp.com/radiofreebabylon.com/RFB%20Images/CoffeeWithJesus/coffeewithjesus500.jpgKingdom building work, and its hard, its messy and its dirty–but there it is!!!

Now to figure out how to do it!!!!

 

The Fig Tree

One day Jesus told a parable (Luke 13:1-9)…there was a fig tree and the master came out to inspect it.

“This tree has been here 3 years and never produced fruit, cut it down”

“Tell you what, I’ll dig out a new home for the tree and give it fresh fertilizer (and water), why don’t you wait a year and see if it produces fruit then” the gardener persuaded

“Fine but if it doesn’t grow, chop it down”

And that is the end of the story…no resolution, no happily ever after, why?

Because the point of the story is the need for nourishment, as the kids in church said today, chopping down a tree isn’t going to help it to produce fruit, but encouragement does…

But digging even deeper into the story, we have to wonder, what is the point of the fig tree producing fruit anyway? Here it goes to all the trouble of growing fruit for what…

to nourish itself?

to have it sit there forever?

to help itself to grow bigger and stronger?

No, it does it so that some other creature can eat its fruit! The usefulness of the tree is not in the tree structure itself; the tree was growing just fine without any fruit, but in how it nourishes others…

And that, my friend is the church, we exist not to nourish or help ourselves, but to share our fruits with others.

If we have no fruit, if we go on upholding our structure, then we are not, in fact, successful.

There is a theory (probably most famously put forth in the book “Bowling Alone”) that society embraced and loved institutions in the 1950s. There were many groups that flourished in this time: scouts, elks, bowling clubs, churches. Churches adapted the institutional structure and did as well as the rest.

Today the structure is to make your own kind of community. You do yoga alone, you make connections online and through relay rides and couchsurfers (for my thoughts on millennials read here). But, that doesn’t mean the hunger/the thirst for God isn’t still there (Psalm 63 was paired with the fig tree gospel reading for a reason). People long for a spirituality that feeds them, has  integrity (***please note, I do not mean they want a vending machine or religion that caters to their every whim, but something that is both relevant and still full of integrity), and one that practices what it preaches–supporting social justice & those in need. Millennials have just internalized the independent nature of our culture (I’ll do it alone, in fact I’ll make a community all on my own) hence: Spiritual but not religious. Church’s need to figure out how to nourish that independent nature so it too can produce fruit.

Its like a Farmer’s Market where people want to take responsibility for their food by connecting to the people who grow it…How can church be less like a supermarket and more like a Farmer’s Market?

After all, Jesus came and gave his ENTIRE LIFE as nourishment for all of us, that is why we (Presbyterians) practice open communion, because everyone gets to share in the spiritual fruits of Christ!

I’m not saying bowling is better than yoga or vice versa, I’m saying that when the church is able to make spiritual fruit to nourish others, that is called ministry! (again we are back to the Farmer’s Market at my church, how can we make it MORE nourishing)

 

How can we, as a church, make the fruit to nourish others.

 

PS do you know olive trees live thousands of years? In the Garden of Gethsemane I was able to see some fig trees which, in all likelihood, stood while Jesus prayed right before his crucifixion. So really, giving a church/person/tree of a couple of years when we can grow and be shaped by thousands is looking at things from a human perspective…How much more can God see, from where she sits? Here is a picture of some of those ACTUAL trees!

Dear Child: Faith is a journey. –Love God

Image

Faith is a journey, and sometimes that journey isn’t an easy one.

But as we learn more and more about Jesus, here is what we learned

1. Jesus did ministry on the move. You notice that Jesus is almost always making his way between cities? Sure Israel is the size of the New Jersey but the journey from Jerusalem to Galilee is about 240 miles, and Jesus walked that more than once.

2. Jesus believed in packing light, but he also believed in good traveling companions—Jesus asks us to take no extra baggage, but to always remember to take a friend, so if you are considering going on a visit for church, pursuing ministry or just doing something new in your spiritual life, Jesus recommends doing it with someone else. (which is why I advocate Co-Pastorships)

3. The Holy Spirit guides us—just as it guided Jesus Christ, we need to remember that we are following Christ’s footsteps, and we have the best guide, we just need to take the time to listen to what God is doing.

4. Its called walking in “Jesus’s Footsteps” not “Sitting in Jesus’s Pews.” My Church’s Farmer’s Market has been a giant step outside of our sanctuary (which is sad that this is a big step, nevertheless its great we’ve done-so) , but we need to figure out where Christ is going, and how to follow him there (as opposed to say, staying where we are and assuming that God wants us to stay there forever)

5. Jesus took Sabbath: Jesus escaped the crowds, he rode boats, he ate with friends, he prayed alone. He found ways to take a break for himself and his ministry, so that he could recharge for the next one.

6. Jesus did not have a checklist. Jesus did not have any requirements for following him—he did not require gold, food or certain characteristics. You can bet one of the disciples was the person who always complained about everything, and another one was that nice but not too bright person, and that one of them had a mental illness, one of them was socially awkward and one of them talked incessantly, while another wouldn’t talk at all. Yet Jesus invited them all to journey with him. He didn’t even require belief (instead he fostered it). He just asked people to come exactly as they were.

What can we do?

Recently I’ve been thinking about how to better meet and get to know the community. What are their needs? What are their prayer concerns?

Maybe we should have a prayer concern board out at the farmer’s market. Maybe we should have projects to thank all those who serve the community (nurses, EMTs, police, Firefighters), maybe we should fundraise for the poor, maybe we should give out free meals, maybe we should grow our own garden to donate fresh food, maybe we should provide a space for people to pray—as you can I’m full of ideas. In fact, at times I get carried away, and it can be overwhelming for others. But, I am confident that we have important things to do, and we are capable to do them!

God, Heresy, Illusions, Emergent Christianity, you know the small questions

If you are a hard case theologian you know about the deep debate between emergent Christians (McLaren, Rob Bell, Brian Berghoef, etc) and the more (what is a non-insulting term for traditional, because I totally do not want to discredit these scholars) academic Christians such as James K. A. Smith

If your not, then this post will hopefully help. Here are some of the important conversations going on about whether emergent Christianity is a pick and choose/fluffy type of theology or alternatively, whether the tried-and-true-Christian scholars are providing too many answers on behalf of God instead of letting God give the answers….(that’s it in a nutshell, you can skip to the bottom if you don’t want the in-depth version)

One back and forth is about “God doesn’t need our help” and a more emergent understanding/refutation here.

One of the things hot under debate is giving up God for Lent, which tries to take seriously the critiques of Christianity. An article about Giving up God for Lent is here. This is something I am trying and a critique that it is a movement for intellectual (eggheaded) theologically trained (clergy) young (millenials)…which he definitely has the audience right, I am all of that–oh and I really appreciate the respectful tone of this critique…

RESTART HERE IF YOU’VE SKIPPED DOWN!!!!

As us young folks try to struggle with what church means to us–ie the emergent church, and what it could mean to the nones….I find all of this debate and forethought invigorating. Sure we don’t have the answers, but I think that looking at THEOLOGY as the source of our institutional woes (as opposed to programming, attendance or money) is a grand start.

To me the answers are to start doing the things we know the church is good at, and then build from there (strength based training anyone? anyone? ). How can we be community centers (we used to be good at that) how can we form relationships with our neighbors (we could be good at that) how do we work for social justice (I always say that human rights issues should be the ones all Christians can agree on)….

And yes we have gone through such questions before, What if God was one of us? Jesus Christ Superstar, Godspell, The Quest for the Historical Jesus come to mind. But remember, whenever people are thinking and talking about God, they are, in essence, working out their faith–and isn’t that what we at the church want to encourage? Questions, speculations, riddles and wonders about God? It’s certainly Biblical…

My church is taking its slow, we are starting farmer’s market with no ulterior motive for members or money (or at least attending to when we think about these ulterior motives) and simply getting to know the neighborhood. We are thinking theologically about our church space (we are blessed with a “great location” it would be great if we could prayerfully use it), we are consciously trying to accept people whereever and whoever they are through the strength and guidance of the Holy Spirit (Won’t You Be Our Neighbor?)…

I don’t know where this is leading, but hey, at least we are talking about it–I’d be even more excited to see these “opposing” viewpoints working and praying together, after all doesn’t the body have different parts for different reasons? (1 Cor 13:1-13)