Posts Tagged ‘ministry in daily life’

I recently had the opportunity to engage 33 pastors from five denominations in two events that featured intentional conversations about what I call the “dirty words” of the church: stewardship and evangelism. Martha Grace Reese, writing in Unbinding the Gospel, notes that a good many people have taken to calling evangelism the “e-word.” I heard recently that someone else had called stewardship the “f-word,” that is, finances. There is reluctance in the church to engage these topics. These conversations also revealed that there is hope, if we can address them not only from a “gathered church” perspective, but from the viewpoint of the “scattered church” as well.

To facilitate and report back on the conversations I used two similar worksheets, “Redefining Stewardship” and “Redefining Evangelism.” There were two columns on each worksheet; on the left participants were asked to define topic at hand “in institutional terms”; on the right they were asked to define each topic in “life in the world” terms. Based on one participant’s comment about the unfortunate pejorative connotation of “institutional”, and in keeping with the overall direction of my recent work, I’ve changed the left column to “in the church.” If you make it to the end of this report, you’ll find that I’ve changed it even further based on what I learned.

With each worksheet I asked participants to work alone on the left column for a few minutes to establish a baseline understanding of the topic. I told them that I expected they would write down legitimate, theologically valid definitions of stewardship/evangelism in the left column definition. I then told them they had permission to add jaded, stereotypical definitions as well. (more…)


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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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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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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: (more…)

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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? (more…)

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I heard the story of a pastor who was cloistered in his office for prayer. A member of the congregation stopped by, looked in the office and saw the pastor, hands folded, head bowed. He knocked on the doorframe as he entered, saying, “Oh, good, Pastor, I’m glad to see that you’re not busy…”

Someone also told me about a curious difference between Americans and Tanzanians. When we part company, our farewell is often, “Take it easy.” When Tanzanians part company, they often say, “Work hard.” Neither farewell seems to be effective. Tanzanians continue to struggle with productivity, and Americans continue to struggle with an addiction to busyness.

A couple years back I was invited to work with a church council in a small town in rural Iowa. To give you an idea how rural this town was, my cellphone could not pick up a carrier. We’re talking seriously off the beaten path. In the course of our meeting, congregational leaders complained that they couldn’t get members to participate in ministries because—you guessed it—”everybody is so busy.” After the meeting, I remarked to my wife, “Since when did the culture of busyness invade (name of town withheld) Iowa?”

“I know you’re busy, but…” How many times have you heard (or used) that introduction to an invitation to talk or to do something? Have you ever wondered why we assume that everybody is overly busy to the point of not being able to pay attention to us?


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