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Turns out that a friend of mine is reading the same book I’m reading: Harvey Cox’s The Future of Faith. We thought we do a little “fishing” for other folks who have read or are reading this book, to see if we could get an online book study going.

So here’s the first stab at this: I’m four chapters into the book, and so far I’m finding it to be a book that is stimulating a lot of thought. It’s a little early to say, but I’m feeling some tinges of hope as well.

His opening paragraph gets right to the point: “What does the future hold for religion, and for Christianity in particular?” He then describes three qualities that “mark the world’s spiritual profile” — the unanticipated resurgence of religion, the decline of fundamentalism (really?), and, he says, the most important: “a profound change in the elemental nature of religiousness.” After drawing a distinction between faith and belief, he goes on to describe three major ages of Christianity: Continue Reading »

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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: Continue Reading »

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? Continue Reading »

Last year I was asked to host a book study on what it means to be pastors who sees their call principally in terms of preparing and empowering people for ministry in their everyday lives. I was amazed to find out that—as popular as the topic is—there are many books aimed at helping the laity identify their ministry, but there are few books designed to help pastors in their work of equipping people for ministry in daily life. So I scheduled a series of conversations that were designed to explore questions such as:

What does it mean to be an equipping pastor? How is that different from what most pastors were trained to be and do? What implications does this hold for program, staff, structure, and day-to-day operation of a congregation? How does one shift from being a ‘pastoral’ or ‘program’ pastor to being an equipping pastor?

I hoped that 6 to 12 pastors might respond. Before the conversations were over, I had engaged over 100 pastors on this topic. I heard some amazing, encouraging, and puzzling things from them. Among the findings were: Continue Reading »

What does it mean to follow Jesus in 2010?

On the church calendar, today is the lesser festival of Andrew, Apostle. According to John’s gospel, Andrew was one of the first disciples. John’s account (1:35-37, 40-42) is less than overwhelming:

The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, “Look, here is the Lamb of God!” The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. … One of the two who heard John speak and followed [Jesus] was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated Anointed). He brought Simon to Jesus, who looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You are to be called Cephas” (which is translated Peter).

Is it just me, or does this passage concentrate more on Simon/Peter than it does on Andrew? Happy St. Andrew Day, everybody. <wink>

So what does it mean to follow Jesus in 2010?

Andrew, the other (unnamed) disciple, and Peter all dropped what they were doing and followed. What clues does this story offer for us about what it means to follow Jesus? Continue Reading »

It started out as a simple request: a nearby pastor suggested that we find a few pastors who would be interested in gathering for a book study on what it means to be “an equipping pastor,” that is, what it means to be a pastor who sees her or his job to be that of equipping members for ministry in daily life. It’s been a buzzword in the church for a good many years, so I was immediately interested and started looking for a book that would serve as the centerpiece for a study group.

I was amazed that—as popular as the topic is—I couldn’t find a definitive book on the subject. I found books aimed at helping laity understand their ministry (William Diehl’s Thank God It’s Monday comes to mind). I found books that were approaching 30 years old. I found newer books that focus on particular pieces of the puzzle (Chris Scharen’s excellent Faith As a Way of Life: A Vision for Pastoral Leadership is a good example). But I did not find a comprehensive book that is designed to help pastors understand and live out their role in this way.

What does it mean to be an equipping pastor? How is that different from what most pastors were trained to be and do? What implications does this hold for program, staff, structure, and day-to-day ministry? Continue Reading »

At a recent continuing education event I stayed in a Catholic monastery and retreat house. The staff at the retreat house left a copy of Catholic Digest in each room. As I came and went, the title of the lead article kept catching my eye: Keeping Kids Catholic—Advice and Inspiration from Those Who Know (by Jon Philipps, June 2010).

At this point I need to confess my jaded expectation: that the article would be something along the lines of ten tips on how to apply the ruler and keep them loving you. For the first day or so, that prejudice kept me from reading the article. Continue Reading »