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Archive for the ‘Leadership’ Category

Enough moaning, already.

I’ll admit it: I’m guilty of doing my fare share. In various places, I have lamented the paradigm shifts that the North American church is facing. For example, in a paper I wrote when I was interviewing for the job I now hold, I wrote:

We no longer hold the privileged position we once held as America’s moral and spiritual voice. For many people, religion is simply a private matter that encompasses little more than self-esteem or the maintenance of personal values and mores. People inside the church are left wondering, What happened to the church that we once knew and loved? People outside the church have little reason to re-evaluate their judgment that the Christian faith has little or no place in the contemporary world, outside of the individual believer’s life.

crisisAnd I’m not the only one. Maybe it’s just the friends I keep and the news feeds I read, but I constantly see posts and articles about the decline of the church, the irrelevance of the church, the stubbornness of the church, and what looks like the end of the church as we have known it. The sky is falling, and we’ve been saying that to one another for more years than I care to remember. Enough already.

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I preached an experimental sermon this past Sunday. And I got some amazing results. In fact, they were results that I never thought to anticipate.

Inspired by a book I had read (The Art of Curating Worship), a friend of mine who is a gifted leader of creative worship, and by a conversation with the staff member at our church who is responsible for crafting a new kind of worship service, I set out to experiment with a participatory sermon. I had my fair share of time to talk, but I involved the congregation in several ways.

The text was Mark 6:30–34, 53–56, the story of the disciples and Jesus responding to the needs of the crowds swarming around them. Inspired by another friend’s exploration of the Greek, I called attention to the different pronouns that Mark uses in the two halves of the reading. In fact, this was the first bit of participation (more…)

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It has a chance of becoming one of the defining characteristics of the present age. It even has an acronym: SBNR. And, of course, it has a web page and a Facebook page. Being “spiritual but not religious” is often an explanation, sometimes an excuse, but mostly it seems to be an attempt at self-definition meant to set a good many people apart from what I’m guessing are perceived societal norms.

Unlike a lot of what I’ve read about this trend, I suggest that 1) we can learn a lot from the SBNR trend, 2) the discussion of this topic has largely been limited by a false dichotomy, 3) there is a better way to talk about what is at stake, and 4) the church can and should respond. (more…)

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The Barna Group recently published results of a study they did on young adults and faith. One of the articles about their research was entitled, “Five Myths about Young Adult Church Dropouts.” It is a worthy and helpful read that examines young adult dropouts from several perspectives. Three comments caught my attention—riveted me, actually, to the point where I had a hard time catching my breath. In three different places the article said: (more…)

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I was given three opportunities to put something in the offering plate in worship this morning. Well, almost. The usher in the center aisle made two feints, uncertain whether he should send the offering plate down the aisle to us and the other couple sitting in our row. Seeing nothing in our hands, he moved on to the next row, just as the usher in the side aisle sent a plate down our row. All pointless, it turned out, as none of us had anything to put in it.

You already know what is happening. In our case, we make an offering once a month, so the other three or four Sundays we have nothing to put in the plate. And we are among the few who still write out a check for our offering. Increasingly, people are contributing by direct deposit, a change that is less trouble for contributors and a boon to the cash flow of congregations.

So what is a church to do? (more…)

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So how’s it going in your life? Are you simply getting through the week or trying to keep your head above water? Heard from God lately?

How’s it going in your ministry? What’s your conversation with others in your church like? Is everyone “tending to business as usual,” or struggling to keep the ship afloat? Heard from God lately?

In her book, Seven Sacred Pauses: Living Mindfully through the Hours of the Day, Sister Macrina Wiederkehr describes her “examen of consciousness” (think of it as a prayerful review) as a means of reflecting on what happened, and seeing God’s presence—and call—in the nitty gritty of daily life. In her daily reflection, she asks these questions: (more…)

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A friend of mine in St. Louis had an unusual part-time job, staffing the Sunday morning nursery of a congregation that gathers in a massive stone church. What a building it is! Except for the clearly Protestant designation on the monumental sign out front, one could easily mistake this majestic structure as an historic cathedral, occupying an entire city block.

What made my friend’s job so unusual was that, despite her assumptions when she first walked through the grand doors of the place, my friend never had more than two or three children to care for in her nursery. Often, there were none. In fact, the huge sanctuary, with seating for more than 1000, seldom saw more than 50 or 60 people in worship.

As she described this situation to me, I couldn’t help but wonder: How does a tiny faith community continue to function in such a huge facility? (more…)

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