Posts Tagged ‘mission’

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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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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When our churches are schools of [spiritual] practice, they make—and change—history. Otherwise, they simply write history and argue about it, and of course, in so doing they tend to repeat it. (145)

It is probably an understatement to say that Brian McLaren is one of the most influential thinkers in the emergent/emerging church. With many books in circulation, he is certainly one of the more prolific. Finding Our Way Again: The Return of the Ancient Practices is the introductory offering in “The Ancient Practice Series” by Thomas Nelson Publishers. As such, it doesn’t deal in depth with any one practice, but it paves the way for rest of the series by presenting the big-picture rationale for spiritual disciplines. In the words of one reviewer on Amazon.com, “If you want people to build a boat, don’t give them the plans, give them a love of the sea.” Finding Our Way Again succeeds in providing a foretaste of what it might be like to live in a faith community that is immersed in the spiritual practices.

In setting up the title’s use of the word ‘way,’ McLaren addresses the question about why bookstores sell more books on Buddhism than Christianity. (more…)

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Final part of the ongoing series

riskJohn Bowen (in Evangelism for “Normal” People) writes about rediscovering the stories of the first witnesses to Christ’s life, death and resurrection in the book of Acts, and realizing that evangelism is inevitably linked with risk:

The risk of leaving the nest
The risk of going to people
who are different
The risk of being different
The risk of physical danger
The risk of breaking the

Deep down inside we know this, and it is perhaps one of the primary reasons why we steer clear of evangelism. It’s risky to share a story, it’s risky to reach out and help someone, it’s risky to admit that we don’t know all the answers. But still, Bowen says, “The fact seems to be quite simply that the kingdom of God does not progress unless Jesus’ people are prepared to take risks.” (more…)

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El SalvadorIt has always been my experience that, whenever I stand in El Mozote, I am standing among the children who were massacred there. I feel them calling me to speak out against violence; to ensure that—as the plaque there says—El Mozote, Nunca mas! (never again!). I feel accountable to those children, whose names and ages are listed from 3 days old to 18 years, numbering at least 300 victims. To me, those children are the saints with whom I am called to live accountably as a person of faith. The communion of saints—living as if victims matter.


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[Part Three in an ongoing series]
LoveLetterEvangelism in most mainline congregations is often an optional activity that those who are willing engage in, or it’s a dirty job assigned to a small group of people who don’t know how to say ‘no’ to a committee assignment, or it’s ignored all together. We have used our objection to the previously described evangelism techniques and assumptions as an excuse to avoid evangelism—like we would a skunk at a garden party. Having looked at what evangelism is not, where do we go from here? How do we restore it to the heart of our ministry and among our members?

We begin with the foundational assumption evangelism is not something that we choose to do or not to do. John Bowen provides the most radical, most helpful and encouraging definition of evangelism that I have ever seen. Put simply, he says, Evangelism at its core is God coming after us, even at our worst, to invite us to come home. Later he sums up, “Evangelism is God’s idea, not ours.” (Evangelism for “Normal” People, Augsburg Fortress, Minneapolis, 2002.)

At first glance, Bowen’s definition seems to let us off the hook. (more…)

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Throughout El Salvador there are skeletal remains of a water project that was once carried out by the government. I don’t know much about it, but it was called the ANDA project, and every now and then one can find a pipe or an old pumping station with ANDA still visible on it. For the people in the countryside, ANDA was a failure—too many pipes lay on top of the ground and needed constant maintenance; pumping station were needed to get the water up the mountain; pumping stations needed generators because there was no running electricity, generators were often scavenged by people who needed the parts for their own use; and government commitments tend to change over the life of a long-term project of that sort.

So, the big government project failed and (see my last blog) the local well project failed. What next? (more…)

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