“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!

Convergences, Nones and the church is dying (do you believe in resurrection?)

http://www.faithandleadership.com/blog/01-10-2013/david-lose-its-time-think-differently

“What’s the problem? someone might ask. “People don’t go to church in the numbers they used to,” we answer. No, that’s not the problem. “People don’t give money to programs like they once did.” Nope, not that either. These are just symptoms.

And as long as you think the problem is lower attendance or giving, then the only possible response is to do what we’ve always done, except do it better. We preach the same as we always did, except now we use screens and PowerPoint. Worship hasn’t really changed, but now we’ve thrown in a drum set. What we are doing is fundamentally the same, yet we somehow expect different results….(excerpted from above blog)”

hmmm….maybe the problem is THEOLOGICAL

Ie changing the time of church or the order of worship and adding more programs (the most common solutions I’ve seen to “change” the church) do not an exciting/relevant church make.

Recently my friends and I had a discussion on facebook about what church is…here is a microcosm (kind of the adverse of NPR’s study on why people don’t go to church, we discussed what church could/should be)

Tim said “A lot of theological terms confuse and get misconstrued…and I think you’re right – finding the people locally rather than them finding you. How? is the big question. Through all the misconceptions and stigma “church” gets, it’s a real challenge. There has to be some risk-taking…”

Shellie said…”Yes!!! It’s life together, authentic relationships, passionate worship, interactive study of scripture, no agenda or programs to distract or divide us, communion as a meal gathered at the table. Intimate yet informal, depth yet accessibility. A truly beautiful expression of the Church”

Tim said “Distractions being key there. We are easily distracted into thinking the programs/building/structure is “church” even when we agree that the “church” is relationships between God and people.”

Shellie said “Yes. Exactly. I’ve worked in several churches where – even with the best of intentions – the emphasis shifts to the curriculum, programs, worship service performance – and relationships slide further down the priority list. And it’s not just a pastoral problem or leadership problem – the “church” has grand expectations for its pastors.” and “es!!! How often does “do authentic relationships” or “serve the widowed, poor, oppressed” or “spend face-to-face time with the unlovely or persons outside the faith” show on our job descriptions of the church’s expectations?”

Oh and I said some stuff too…

“i think that’s what confuses people, they think church is just for belief, but I maintain its for unbelievers and faith (belief is something else!)”

“Awesome, its so hard, I think that we “do” church differently and a lot of people who are friends of mine would come, but now I need to find those people locally, I think that the idea of “church” gets in our way”

“I always say that when the church bought its first building everyone was probably like “what? That’s crazy, that won’t be real church, real church happens in peoples houses” etc, etc. all the objections people have to churches without pews or in different locations (coffeeshops, etc)”

“lol which is hilarious because the pastor’s job is to put themselves out of a job (teach others to pray, teach others to preach, teach others to lead–but church’s do focus on the programs”

The convergence continues

(Young Spiritual (and maybe not religious) people are converging! See the following article for more about the awesome convergence!!!)

Shasta and Aslan -Horse and His Boy

REEEEEEEEEE-form

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 statusImage

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.)

please

Me: “Who does Westley (m…

Me: “Who does Westley (my 2yr old) say hi to?”
Congregation: “Everybody”
Me: In fact he’s quite militant about it. If you say hi once, you are doomed to continue to say hi to him all day!

Best synopsis of my sermon about welcome today. Text: Mark 9:30-37

30They went on from there and passed through Galilee. He did not want anyone to know it; 31for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, “The Son of Man is to be betrayed into human hands, and they will kill him, and three days after being killed, he will rise again.” 32But they did not understand what he was saying and were afraid to ask him.

33Then they came to Capernaum; and when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the way?” 34But they were silent, for on the way they had argued with one another who was the greatest. 35He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.” 36Then he took a little child and put it among them; and taking it in his arms, he said to them, 37“Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.”